Grantmakers In Health| Podcast | HealthPartners blog

For the past 40 years, Washington, D.C.-based Grantmakers In Health has been dedicated to helping foundations and funders of all sizes and interests through education, leadership and networking – working with hundreds of philanthropic organizations across the United States. Dr. Cara V. James, president and CEO at GIH, shares how and why her career has focused on minority health and improving health outcomes for vulnerable populations. She also talks about GIH’s strategic plan focused on health equity, social justice, access and quality, community engagement and empowerment, population health and philanthropic growth and impact. Listen to the episode or read the transcript.
A fragmented system
Public health, as described by Dr. James, is not easily or quickly explained. It encompasses essential functions that make sure people can live their healthiest lives. When public health is working correctly, we don’t see it. When it fails, it makes headlines.
Unfortunately, public health is an area that suffers from racism and prejudice at a systems level. Health inequality is a big component of public health, which is why Dr. James and Grantmakers In Health seek to educate and lead philanthropic efforts towards health equality.
Health inequality can take several forms: It’s not having health information translated in a patient’s first language, or it’s not being able to accommodate a patient with disabilities. It shows up when a patient is treated differently based on the presence or appearance of their family, something Dr. James saw firsthand when her grandmother was in the hospital. And too often, health inequality is simply a population’s lack of access to health care.
About Grantmakers In Health
Grantmakers In Health is a philanthropic support organization devoted to education and solutions across five focus areas:

Health equality
Access
Community engagement
Population health
Philanthropy growth and impact

Dr. James works with more than 200 foundations and corporate giving programs. She and her team lead webinars, write educational materials and gather stakeholders together to problem-solve and implement solutions. This process requires trust and commitment. Philanthropy isn’t perfect and has work to do, acknowledges Dr. James, but part of the trust building is showing long-term commitment to doing the work. In some cases, it even requires a foundation to examine its own problematic past and make sure there is reckoning with it and healing from it.
Challenges
Dr. James says work like this has always been an uphill battle, and when it’s not in the headlines or impacting you personally, it’s easy to ignore health inequality. One way to keep the subject front of mind, Dr. James says, is to help change the narrative around health inequality, to help people find their shared humanity between themselves and those who are hurt by unequal systems. We have more in common, more shared experiences than not. We all want our kids to grow and be safe, we all want to be respected and we all want health care to be there for us.
What we can do
Health equity should just be the way we do business, says Dr. James. People having to choose between food and medicine, for example, should not be happening in the world, let alone the United States. The U.S. spends more on health care than any other country but is number 72 in life expectancy.
Dr. James believes it’s going to take everyone working together to help change things. For those who would like to get involved, she suggests starting at the local level. Look for patient advisory boards, find resources from the Kaiser Family Foundation and get involved in the conversation.
To hear more from Dr. James, listen to this episode of Off the Charts.