What a Decade of Investing in Northern Virginia’s Health Care Safety Net Taught Us

What a Decade of Investing in Northern Virginia’s Health Care Safety Net Taught Us

Reflections by Northern Virginia Health Foundation President and CEO Patrica N. Mathews and Board Chair Lisa G. Kaplowitz

Much has changed since the Northern Virginia Health Foundation was created a decade ago.  Thanks to the tireless work of the Foundation’s safety net grantees and our many community partners, the health care safety net in the region has become stronger, and many more low-income residents are getting the care they need. While our work is far from over, we are proud of what we’ve accomplished since those early days.

As we take a moment to reflect on the occasion of our 10th anniversary, there is so much that we have learned. But three lessons stand apart:

  1. Providing general operating support is essential. To see real progress, investments by a funder must help build the capacity of an organization, not merely support a program that appeals to that funder. We’ve seen this approach result in impressive enhancements in clinical care and significant improvements in the strategic planning and administrative capabilities and effectiveness of all our safety net grantees.
  1. Grantmaking is important, but it isn’t enough. To tackle health problems, you certainly need to make sure quality health care is being delivered. But you also need to work with local governments and community leaders on changes to systems that inadvertently created health problems in the first place. Systems change is hard work. But, at the end of the day, it is systems change that will result in lasting change.
  1. Working in partnership with grantees is required. To ensure that grantees are successful, funders need to do more than assure themselves that final reports reflect the requests in the original proposals. You also need to find opportunities to bring grantees together so that they can learn from experts and from one another and identify ways in which to work collaboratively.

Beyond these lessons, our most important reflection is how grateful we are. We are honored to have worked with such deeply committed partners over the last decade. We invite you to learn more by reading our 10th anniversary annual report and consider joining us to tackle the problems that this region will face in the next 10 years.