Factor Health Funding Up for Grabs to Support Healthy Living
Good health beyond the clinic
Thursday, Feb. 28, is the deadline for local organizations (Austin and Travis County) to submit letters of interest for funding from Factor Health, the partnership between the UT Dell Medical School and the Episcopal Health Foundation, to find new ways to address nonmedical causes of poor health. Dell Med, which is partly funded by local tax dollars via Central Health, and EHF, with a $1 billion endowment from the sale of St. Luke's Medical Center in Houston, are starting with a $2.6 million investment in promising interventions to address what are usually termed "social determinants of health" – tobacco use, access to fresh food, walkable neighborhoods, adequate housing and transportation, and the like.
The two partners cite research that suggests these factors control as much as 90% of health outcomes, with our most-expensive-in-the-world health care system excelling at medical miracles but failing to actually keep people healthy. Factor Health is set up not as a standard grant program to agencies and nonprofits in the health-promotion arena (which EHF already does), but more of a social venture capital fund that could support a broad range of programs that "bring all of the right players together to quickly prove effective and sustainable models that can be replicated elsewhere," said Elizabeth Jacobs, M.D., Dell Med's director of primary care. Those players include the public- and private-sector health care funders (like Central Health) who right now find it less risky or laborious to fund expensive medical interventions than to support wellness efforts. "Many innovative organizations are already reaching beyond clinics to tackle these nonmedical drivers of health," said EHF CEO Elena Marks, "but it's a challenge to find health care payers to support them." Factor Health expects to short-list proposals that it will then nurture for several months with outside expertise, then fund the most viable programs for two years and match them with prospective long-term sponsors.