The Power of Health Conversion Foundations to Transform Communities
Healthcare institutions play a critical role in supporting and transforming communities. During a session with the Urban Land Institutes' (ULI) third cohort of the Health Leadership Network on July 15, Karen Wolk Feinstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Healthcare Foundation (JHF), and former Pittsburgh Mayor and ULI Canizaro/Klingbeil Families Chair for Urban Development, Tom Murphy, challenged the cohort to see the powerful lever healthcare organizations can play in their communities. In a session entitled, "Leveraging Healthcare Institutions to Strengthen Communities and Combat Social Inequities," both presenters argued that in addition to providing for the health of residents, healthcare institutions can also serve as an advocate, an investor, an educator, and an economic engine.
Dr. Feinstein highlighted the value of health conversion foundations, of which JHF was one of the first, and the impact they can have on a community when focused on local, responsive, creative investments. Conversion foundations, also known as health legacy foundations or hospital conversion foundations, are typically established when a nonprofit healthcare entity converts to a for-profit corporation, or in the case of JHF, when the management of Montefiore Hospital was sold to Presbyterian University Health Services, Inc. Conversion foundations are active in specific geographic areas, and JHF serves as a good case study in how to invest in a diverse set of local and regional efforts, helping to address issues from HIV/AIDS to vaccinations and patient safety to healthcare innovation over the past 30 years. JHF also helped to pioneer the concept of activist philanthropy, where a foundation does not simply stand by and give grants, but is active in its investments, its pilot programs, in transforming a community, and engages in advocacy. Dr. Feinstein outlined the principles JHF has used to be successful, and the various ways conversion foundations strengthen communities across the country. (You can read more about America's Health Conversion Foundations in this Grantmakers in Health report from 2019 and access Making Their Mark here.)
Tom Murphy similarly encouraged the cohort to see the economic investment in healthcare institutions as a powerful way to reinvigorate a community. He provided numerous examples from across the country, and the importance of education through health care and its transformative effects. They both discussed the role of private entrants into health care, and both the potential challenges and benefits they offer.
The ULI Health Leaders Network sets out to empower real estate and land use professionals with the skills, knowledge, and networks to improve health outcomes in their professional practice and communities.