Connecticut Health Foundation to shift focus

The Connecticut Health Foundation announced Monday that it’s shifting its strategy to focus on health equity, with emphasis on making sure that residents get enrolled in affordable health insurance plans, understand how to navigate the health care system and receive affordable, comprehensive care.

“Right now there are too many barriers to better health for too many of our fellow residents,” board chairman Sanford Cloud, Jr., said in a statement released by the foundation. “They either lack insurance, access to doctors, or both. For some of us, access to the best care in the country is as simple as a phone call and an insurance card. But for others, it might as well be a world away.”

The shift in focus coincides with the rollout of the major provisions of the federal health reform law, which is expected to provide health insurance to thousands more state residents. Currently, minorities are five times more likely to be without health insurance, and the foundation highlighted some of the consequences: 22 percent of African-American women and nearly 24 percent of Latina women receive late or no prenatal care in the first trimester of their pregnancies. For most children, the first time they access mental health care is when they’re in the juvenile justice system, according to the foundation.

President and CEO Patricia Baker said the timing was right to make the shift, and noted that the foundation has already included addressing racial and ethnic health disparities in its work.

“The evolution of our work led the Board to make the decision that helping more people gain access to better care, especially for people of color – was critical,” she said in a statement.

The foundation will focus on:

• Assisting residents getting and staying enrolled in an affordable health insurance plan.

• Helping residents who are enrolled navigate the complex health system so they can get care when and where they need it, including from community health centers, hospital clinics and school-based health centers.

• Ensuring that providers offer care that is affordable and comprehensive, including mental, oral and physical health. And making sure that providers are held accountable for improving health.

The shift in focus will take place over the next five years. The foundation will continue funding initiatives related to oral health and children’s mental health for the next two years. After that, both areas will be integrated into the work on health equity, according to the foundation.

The Connecticut Health Foundation provides funding for The Connecticut Mirror.