Researchers create database to examine vast resources of health legacy foundations

January 30, 2014

Local communities can expect the number and asset size of philanthropic foundations to increase, due to the rise in health care consolidations driven by health care reform. In the past, assets of this kind may have been underused and at times, even undocumented. A new database created by UNC Charlotte researchers can help bridge this gap.

"Health care reform heightens the importance of identifying and maximizing existing community resources," say researchers Sabrina Jones Niggel and William P. Brandon in their report, "Health Legacy Foundations: A New Census," published in the GrantWatch section of the January 2014 issue of Health Affairs. Niggel is a in Health Services Research in the College of Health and Human Services, and Brandon is the Metrolina Medical Foundation Distinguished Professor of Public Policy on Health and a professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

In their work, they undertook a systematic search for foundations created with proceeds from nonprofit health care sales and other transactions. Information from this search resulted in a comprehensive database with 306 "health legacy foundations" in 43 states. Prior to their research, Grantmakers In Health maintained the only database of these type foundations, listing 155 when they last reported on them in 2009. The new database includes critical information such as location, date established, asset values and grant awards, geographic service areas, and the foundations' tax-exempt status.

The UNC Charlotte researchers' database not only identifies existing resources, it also sets the stage for marking new or newly expanded foundations. Recent times have seen a resurgence in hospital deals, which "likely presages another surge in new health legacy foundations, as did the wave of health care mergers and acquisitions in the early 1980s and mid-1990s," they say. Over the past three decades, nonprofit health care entities often have struck agreements with for-profit firms to sell, lease, merge or otherwise change their assets. These changes have resulted in billions of dollars nationwide in charitable assets, most often managed through the creation or expansion of philanthropic foundations.

In 2010, the same year the Affordable Care Act was enacted, health care institutions announced 77 deals, the most since 2001, research shows. The two following years, 2011 and 2012, saw 92 deals and 94 deals for a total of 263 agreements.

The researchers also considered the "extraordinary' potential for the foundations to address health-related matters, as a result of their concentration in the South, with its higher rates of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and stroke. The foundations for the most part have committed to grant-making in the where the converting hospital often was the only hospital. They at times also have chosen to provide capacity-building grants to help struggling charities stay afloat, especially during the Great Recession, the research indicates.

Niggel and Brandon also contend that while local community members at times oppose the sales of their nonprofit hospitals, such sales may stabilize the facilities. If they stay open, they continue to provide health care; the economic capital that generates jobs and provides health services continues or expands; new social capital comes into the community through the foundations; and human capital grows due to the foundations' and grantees' need for expanded skills. Such transactions also can free up local assets tied up in buildings and equipment and move them to where they can be reinvested in liquid assets devoted to community needs, they suggest.

The researchers also suggest that consideration of the adoption of the more comprehensive generic term "health legacy foundation" is a way to foster more precise thinking of the variation in the diverse but related phenomena occurring in these health care mergers and other consolidations.

For now, a new, more comprehensive database exists to help communities nationwide better understand local resources. In the future, more study of these unique philanthropic entities could shed more light on trends in health and philanthropy.

Explore further: US marks four straight years of slowing health costs

Related Stories

US marks four straight years of slowing health costs

January 6, 2014
President Barack Obama's health care law has divided the nation, but government experts are saying his first term produced historically low growth in health costs.

Big impact on income gap is health law's new angle

January 29, 2014
Maybe the health care law was about wealth transfer, after all.

Community health centers integrate mental and medical services to address care gap

November 4, 2013
In recent years, there has been growing recognition that mental health status impacts physical health and vice versa. As a result, there is growing interest in the coordination of medical and behavioral health services as ...

Barriers to care for resettled refugees

January 13, 2014
Barriers to health care for refugees who have been resettled in the Australian community remains an issue that requires a health service overhaul, a Monash University-led report has found.

Corporate links of global health foundations may conflict with philanthropic interest

April 12, 2011
Major philanthropic foundations in global health, which often influence and shape the international global health agenda, have links with food and pharmaceutical corporations that could constitute a conflict of interest to ...

Recommended for you

Americans misinformed about smoking

August 22, 2017
After voluminous research studies, numerous lawsuits and millions of deaths linked to cigarettes, it might seem likely that Americans now properly understand the risks of smoking.

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.