The Episcopal Health Foundation's work is all about transformation.
The Foundation's One Vision is transformation to healthy communities for all. From the smallest towns to the largest cities throughout the 57 counties of the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, we aim to transform the people, institutions and places to create healthy communities for everyone.
- 1 Transformation to Healthy Communities For All
Rooted in faith and active in hope, the Episcopal Health Foundation believes that all people are worthy of the opportunity to live healthy lives. We exist not alone but in community, and the health of our communities determines and is determined by the health of each individual member. At Bishop Doyle’s urging, we will pursue a holistic vision of health rooted in the community: we aim to transform the people, institutions, and places in our region to create healthy communities.
We believe that a healthy community is one that continuously creates and improves its physical and social environments to enhance health and to help people support one another to achieve health and well-being. Healthy communities honor human dignity and intentionally improve the quality of life for all people who live, work, worship, learn, and play there. They are communities where every person is free to make choices amid a variety of healthy, available, accessible, and affordable options. In a healthy community, all groups are valued and participate in problem solving, especially those who are most affected by an issue. Institutions and systems are aligned, integrated, effective, and sufficient for supporting the health and well-being of everyone in the community. Healthy communities are proactive in their approach. They are not simply reactive to problems.
For the Foundation’s work to be transformative, it must support communities in adopting new ways of problem-solving. This requires greater cooperation and collaboration across sectors, and the involvement of the people whose health and lives are affected. Human connections, especially among people from different backgrounds and experiences, must be strengthened across communities. This will enable individuals, institutions, faith-based organizations, health systems, and neighborhoods to prioritize health and become better equipped to see opportunities to improve health and to solve problems together.
In aiming for transformation to healthy communities, the Foundation will increasingly shift its work from filling gaps in the social safety net to addressing systemic problems that cause and perpetuate gaps. This means moving from shorter to longer-term investments, moving from downstream to upstream interventions, and supporting initiatives leading to self-organized, sustainable communities with strong and inclusive participation processes and structures. Our desire for transformation means that health disparities will be identified and reduced in the short term, and root causes of health inequities will be addressed in the long-term. We will focus our work on opportunities that move us progressively closer to addressing fundamental barriers to the development of healthy communities.
We'll work toward healthy communities through Three Goals:
- 1 Strong Health Systems
The health system is undergoing rapid change with an emphasis on moving care upstream—out of acute and tertiary care settings and into lower cost, community-based settings that focus on wellness. Developing more high-quality, integrated preventive, primary, oral and mental health services is a critical need for every community. Our region faces many challenges including the lack of sufficient clinic capacity, providers, and other resources to deliver this care. The clinics we do have must be strengthened to deliver high-quality care that provides access for all. They must be integrated with social services providers, comprehensive in scope, and responsive to community needs. As health care providers increasingly recognize the influence of community factors such as housing, pollution and public safety on their patients’ health status, they can help influence those factors.
The Diocese has a long history of supporting community-based primary care through community clinics like El Buen Samaritano in Austin and St. Vincent’s House in Galveston. The Seminary of the Southwest prepares practitioners to deliver mental health services. And our legacy organization, Episcopal Health Charities, invested millions of dollars in organizations to deliver community-based preventive, primary, mental and oral health care. Going forward, we will continue to work to strengthen the health system and make strategic investments that support a systems approach to service delivery.
- 2 Connected Communities
Every individual, institution and community has assets and resources that can contribute to health and well-being. For example, in response to emergencies and natural disasters, we have seen communities pull together to respond to immediate needs as well as to address the subsequent challenges. The authentic connections developed in those responses are the same inputs necessary to create and sustain the formal and informal institutions that support community health. Establishing connections requires interaction and cooperation among individuals to build social networks and trust across groups with significant differences.
In building such cooperation, special attention must be paid to the voices of those with the least power. A truly connected community is able to use these resources on a routine basis, not just when circumstances call for extraordinary action. The capacity to do this work resides in each of us, and there are many faith-based and not-for- profit organizations that support individuals in this work. The mechanisms for building and strengthening connections will vary community by community. In some communities, connection may be best served by supporting new structures or enhancing existing ones. Others may benefit from specific opportunities such as community-based planning and research activities to ensure that a voice for healthy communities is heard at decision-making levels.
- 3 Engaged Diocese
The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is in a unique position to enhance its service ministries by engaging with the Foundation in health ministry at the parish level. We envision a reciprocal relationship in which congregations develop programs to serve their communities in consultation with the Foundation. In addition, the Foundation brings congregations and parishioners together with other organizations to expand the impact of community ministry. In some cases, existing ministry efforts may be strengthened or linked to other Foundation initiatives, while in other cases new ministries may be developed to address issues in communities with significant needs. We can support new models of ministry and increase the impact of existing ministries. Parishes may want to share services, skills, and fellowship more deeply within the community. The synergies between Foundation and parish work will catalyze our efforts for widespread transformational change by bringing more resources to the problem-solving table and strengthening the voice for health in our communities.
We've identified Seven Strategies to achieve those goals. These strategies will guide our work over the next three years.
- 1 Support Comprehensive Community-Based Primary Care
This strategy relates to the development of community-based clinics that provide high-quality, integrated, comprehensive and coordinated care that offer holistic services and are embedded within the community. For the Foundation, comprehensive primary care includes preventive, primary, oral and mental health care. Examples of work in this area include:
- Developing high-performing clinics including Community Centered Health Homes, advanced level Patient Centered Medical Homes, and high-performing Community Health Centers/Federally Qualified Health Centers
- Supporting health service delivery models that are focused on prevention and wellness services
- Improving coordination, co-referral processes and organizational development among service organizations to ensure that comprehensive services are available in the community
- Using technology to support new ways of delivering services
- 2 Increase Access to Health Services
This strategy can be achieved in several ways and approaches will depend on specific community contexts and needs. Examples include:
Texas has the highest percentage of residents without health insurance in the country.
- Increasing the number of clinics, including nurse-managed clinics
- Increasing enrollment in Medicaid, CHIP, ACA Marketplace plans, and other benefits programs that enable vulnerable populations to access care outside of hospital emergency rooms
- Ensuring comprehensive services are utilized by the entire population, especially the most vulnerable
- Supporting community health workers to strengthen health and health system literacy, uptake of services, and patient engagement in their own care
- Supporting programs that increase the number of health care professionals serving vulnerable populations in community based settings
- Improving access to and effectiveness of school-based health services
- 3 Support Mental Health and Wellness
In addition to providing support for mental illness within the context of health services, we have an opportunity to embed a more holistic concept of mental health within the community. Examples include:
- Participating in joint initiatives to advance mental health policy in Texas in collaboration with other funders, institutions, and agencies
- Supporting programs that enhance tenacity and resiliency
- Integrating evidence-informed mental health approaches into community decision-making and initiatives
- Providing training and resources for evidence-informed approaches using peer-to-peer counseling to create emotional and family support systems
- Strengthening the ability of the Diocese, the local faith-based community, and the community at large to support those with mental illness and substance abuse problems and to reduce the associated stigma
- 4 Enhance Early Childhood Development
This strategy is based on copious evidence indicating there is a window of opportunity early in life during which the brain is particularly susceptible to positive interventions with long-term positive impacts. Examples include:
- Supporting early intervention programs for pregnant women that lead to positive birth outcomes
- Training parents and caregivers on how to create healthy physical, social, emotional, and cognitive environments for young children
- Supporting evidence-informed early childhood interventions that contribute to lifelong health
- Improving health outcomes among abused and neglected children and preventing harm among those vulnerable to abuse and neglect
- 5 Support Capacity Building
Individuals, congregations and not-for-profits need help in realizing their full potential to create healthy communities. We can support this work in many ways, including the following:
- Providing financial support and training to help strengthen organizations and programs
- Training congregations and not-for-profits in community organizing and community-based participatory research to strengthen their connection to community
- Conducting community-based research to identify needs and opportunities for capacity building efforts
- Incorporating community engagement into program development to ensure that the voices of the intended beneficiaries are heard
- 6 Facilitate Healthy Planning
In order to create a value system that places health at the core of our lives, our communities must become adept at understanding how non-health sector decisions are likely to impact health. Therefore, we must provide training to organizations so they may apply a “health lens” in planning and decision-making. Examples include:
- Disseminating research on the social determinants of health for use by others in planning and development
- Supporting efforts to embrace a “health in all policies” approach to planning
- Providing funding and training to conduct Health Impact Assessments
- Training congregations and other groups to learn how to identify and address unintended negative health impacts of their activities
- Using community organizing to accelerate problem-solving for local health priorities
- 7 Strengthen Collective Impact
Working together with strategically aligned goals within collaborative structures magnifies the impact of funders and organizations. It accelerates progress toward transformed communities. Examples include:
- Partnering with other donors to fund across a variety of sectors that impact health to create more complete and impactful approaches to healthy communities
- Conducting community-based research and supporting community organizing to ensure the voice of affected and vulnerable populations is part of collective impact projects
- Using our convening skills to gather together natural partners, including Diocesan leaders, to identify better ways of working together
- Supporting innovative financing and organizing strategies that strengthen sustainability and self-sufficiency
- Identifying opportunities to highlight the benefits to the business community, non-health sectors, and other non-traditional partners of supporting health and wellness