Humana Foundation working to measurably boost health equity in Louisville



As Humana pursues its Bold Goal to improve the health of the communities we serve 20 percent by 2020, the Humana Foundation is also working to help make that happen in several communities throughout the Southeast, including Louisville.

As Louisville is the home of Humana’s headquarters, we’re also in the midst of making a series of changes at the Humana Foundation that we believe will result in the foundation making a greater impact on the health of this community. We’ll achieve this by focusing on our mission: We strive to co-create communities where leadership, culture and systems work to improve and sustain positive health outcomes.

Impact on Louisville

What does this mean, exactly? And how will it play out for the Louisville area? First, it means we’re now focused not only on the financial impact we make with grants to organizations throughout the community, but also on our other forms of philanthropic capital – social, moral, intellectual and reputational capital. Related, we are evolving our evaluation of potential grantees into an outcomes-based approach focused on what comes out of nonprofits, not on what goes in.

We intend that the result of this new approach will be that we achieve greater health equity in Louisville and the other communities we serve. This means that all citizens will have the opportunity to achieve their best health, not just a select few. We can’t get there, though, if our investments don’t ultimately contribute to people changing their behaviors.

In Louisville, we’re in the process of narrowing our focus, which means that we’ll be awarding fewer, larger grants this year. But we’ll also be increasing our overall philanthropy in the area. And we’re creating a community relations program for Louisville as a new way to support organizations that are committed to making Louisville an even better place to live and a place where we truly do make it easy for people to achieve their best health.

Improving Public Health

From the years when I spent part of my childhood in Louisville, to my return last fall, I know that this is a community where people genuinely want to see everyone have opportunities to live their best life. We’re excited at the Humana Foundation about Humana’s “Bold Goal.”

We know that for far too many people in our community, achieving their best health is not at all easy. In fact, it can be very difficult, for a range of reasons.

This is why we’ve been taking a hard look at how we operate the Humana Foundation – because we want to find new ways to make a more sustainable impact in Louisville. And this is why the foundation is evolving its grant-making work to a strategic investment plan that focuses on social determinants of health, particularly “upstream” social determinants.

  • Social determinants of health are the nonmedical factors that influence health – conditions under which people are born, grow, live, work and age – the “social structures and economic systems that are responsible for most health inequities,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Upstream social determinants include social disadvantage, risk exposure and social inequities that play a fundamental causal role in poor health outcomes — and thus represent important opportunities for improving health and reducing health disparities.

Partners Needed

Obviously, the Humana Foundation alone can’t erase the social inequities that have gotten us to where we are. And if there’s one thing Humana’s Bold Goal work has shown us, it’s that we can’t succeed on our own.

So in the coming months and years, the Humana Foundation will also work to identify partner organizations – at the national and local level and here in Louisville – because joining forces with like-minded entities can result in more impactful, broad-based and sustainable change. It can actually result in people changing their behaviors. It can result in Louisville ultimately getting fitter, not fatter. But it will take time.

Starting Small

As we start to implement our new strategy, we know we can’t expect to immediately impact the health of our entire community. We have to start smaller than that. And we will. Maybe we’ll first team with a particular neighborhood, or organization, or with a group of people who need the greatest support. We aren’t sure where we’ll start, but we expect to know over the course of the next several months. And we know we’ll focus on areas where there’s a clear way to measure our progress.

Soon, the Humana Foundation will be announcing a new process for applying for grants from the organization, and sharing more details about our new community relations program. And we’re excited about this, because we know we have a wonderful opportunity to make a greater impact in our headquarters’ hometown.

As Louisville and communities across the country grapple with the challenges of improving public health, we want to do our part to make that happen here. That’s what is driving my Humana Foundation partners and me each day –knowing we have the potential to contribute to helping people get – and stay – healthier.

Walter Woods is CEO at the Humana Foundation.


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