Blog Post

Why one organization is helping to BUILD

January 23, 2015

    The Advisory Board Company, the de Beaumont Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and The Colorado Health Foundation recently joined together to identify and support health partnerships taking Bold, Upstream, Integrated, Local, and Data-driven approaches to improving health in low-income, urban communities. The joint project, known as the BUILD Health Challenge, will award community collaborations up to $8.5 million in grants, low-interest loans, and program-related investments over two years.

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    In an interview, Brian Castrucci, de Beaumont Foundation's chief program and strategy officer, talks about why his organization got involved—and what he hopes to see out of this innovative initiative.

    Q: Why did your organization and leadership team decide to become involved with BUILD? Why BUILD? Why now?

    Brian Castrucci: The de Beaumont Foundation understands that improving health means focusing on the causes of disease rather than its consequences. To that end, we had already spearheaded the development of a massive learning resource for public health practitioners and primary care providers called The Practical Playbook: Public Health and Primary Care Together. That project, developed in collaboration with Duke University Community and Family Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), had always envisioned funding community demonstration sites to refine and develop the methodologies we are disseminating.

    When we connected first with The Advisory Board Company and later with the Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Colorado Health Foundation, we realized that we could have a much greater impact through collaboration. We see this greater impact not only in terms of the financial and in-kind resources that we’ve been able to assemble, but more importantly in the diversity of perspectives and networks each partner brings to the table as a different stakeholder in the health care landscape.

    Q: What changes are you hoping to catalyze through your involvement with BUILD?

    Castrucci: We need to fundamentally shift the way people think about health and health care delivery in the United States. We want people—and that means everyone from health care executives to local health officials to thought leaders and beyond—to move from thinking about health care as a service performed to cure sick people to understanding health care as a complex ecosystem of environments and daily behaviors.

    I hope the BUILD Health Challenge provides us with new insights into the nuts and bolts of local, collaborative approaches to improving population health and mitigating health disparities. What challenges are experienced by all cities? What strategies do we need to develop to help others clear common hurdles? Are there models of communication that are particularly successful in these often unprecedented partnerships between hospitals and health systems, local health departments, and community based organizations? We are all going to benefit from having the chance to study the answers to these questions and many more.

    Q: Your mission statement states your organization seeks to “transform the practice of public health.” How, specifically, do you see participating in BUILD helping you to achieve this goal?

    Castrucci: Many people don’t understand exactly who does “public health” or what that term includes, so it’s worth defining first. Governmental public health departments at the local and state levels seek to prevent chronic disease and injuries; promote maternal, child, and family health; monitor and protect against environmental health hazards; prevent and control infectious disease outbreaks; prepare for emergencies and crises, including terrorism; develop and advocate for science-based, health-promoting policies; conduct educational and outreach campaigns; assess the health of the population through epidemiological surveillance and testing; and more.

    That said, the impact of a public health department is dependent on how well it interacts and engages with the community it serves, which is where the BUILD Health Challenge comes into play. By forging a path for stronger and more effective partnerships between community-based organizations, hospitals/health systems, and local health departments, the BUILD Health Challenge will allow public health practitioners not only to leverage the strengths of other essential community pillars, but also to learn from their strengths and capabilities. This is the model for the future, and we are helping pave the way.

    Q: Which part of the BUILD acronym: bold, upstream, integrated, local, and data-driven resounds most with your organization?

    Castrucci: Each part of that acronym speaks to the mission and the ethos of the de Beaumont Foundation, but three that I would highlight as strengths in our grant portfolio are Bold, Upstream, and Integrated. In BUILD and in other projects like the Practical Playbook or the forthcoming Healthier Cities Initiative, we are not afraid to pursue bold or ambitious projects. Moving towards addressing the upstream determinants of health requires integrated and fully collaborative partnerships to be effective, so those principles represent key tenets of our work.

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