Housing and Health - Foundations Fund Research in CT to Examine Relationship

Housing and health are increasingly the focus of study, to better determine how one impacts and influences the other.  Foundations at the state and national level are among those devoting resources in Connecticut to seek answers that can ultimately guide future public policy. With a $125,000 grant from the Connecticut Health Foundation, the Open Communities Alliance will work to create better links between housing and health care and set the stage for a two-year pilot program to enable interested families of children with acute asthma to move to healthier neighborhoods.

The “Healthy Housing Vouchers” project aims to use housing policy to improve health outcomes for low-income families and reduce health disparities, tying together clinical and nonclinical factors that affect people’s well-being. 

The Open Communities Alliance project will create a streamlined process for low-income families of children with asthma to help them access affordable housing in healthier communities if they choose. It will include referrals, counseling on the impact of environmental conditions on health, help identifying potential rental locations, and assistance with security deposits, moving expenses, and supportive services as they adapt to a new community. The initial participants in the pilot program will be low-income families who receive government-funded housing vouchers and have children with acute asthma.

The Connecticut Health Foundation will also be providing a $100,000 grant to support Connecticut Voices for Children’s work to promote policies that advance health equity for children and families. The work will include conducting policy research, producing educational materials and analyses to inform policymakers about issues affecting children and families, bringing together state agencies and advocates through the Covering Connecticut’s Kids and Families Coalition, and participating in state-run councils to represent research-based policy solutions.

These projects are among  11 awarded a total of $535,000 - announced this month - by the Connecticut Health Foundation, based in Hartford.  It is the state’s largest independent health philanthropy dedicated to improving health outcomes for people of color.

Earlier this year, the Connecticut Data Collaborative and the Liberal Arts Action Lab were awarded a 500 Cities Data Challenge grant by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The joint proposal was one of 10 selected from a large competitive pool of applications submitted by organizations from cities across the United States.

The one-year $148,000 grant will support local research and educational outreach on housing conditions, health outcomes, and neighborhood disparities in the capital city of Hartford.

The Connecticut Data Collaborative is a nonprofit organization focused on providing public access to data, creating an ecosystem of data users, and increasing data literacy. The Liberal Arts Action Lab, launched in early 2018 by Trinity College and Capital Community College, investigates problems posed by Hartford community partners, with teams of undergraduate students and faculty fellows who conduct semester-long research projects to strengthen the city.

The Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed this challenge grant to encourage communities to delve into the 500 Cities open-access dataset, to design innovative solutions on social factors that influence health, and to guide local organizations on how to effectively use neighborhood-level data. The broader goal is to promote more comprehensive cross-collaborative approaches to foster a broader “Culture of Health” in urban areas.


Changing Leadership Atop Leading Philanthropy Organizations

Two leading organizations in Connecticut’s philanthropic community are at the crossroads of leadership changes.  The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy (CCP) has announced the end of its national search for a new leader with the selection of Karla Fortunato to be its new president, effective May 1.  The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, one of the nation’s largest community foundations, has embarked on its own national search, and announced that Yvette Meléndez has been appointed interim president, effective March 20, as that search process continues. Fortunato comes to CCP after 13 years at the Health and Environmental Funders Network (HEFN), a national alliance of 60 philanthropic organizations based in Rockville, MD.

As director of HEFN, she has managed its programming, outreach, and operations, promoting collaboration on shared goals among its members.  Fortunato previously served as associate director of policy for Health Care for All in Boston, engaging in policy research, communications, and campaigns, and as a consultant for The Public Policy Institute, also in Boston.

"Karla's experience in building alliances among funders and engaging in public policy outreach make her ideally suited to lead our organization," said Judith Meyers, chair of CCP's Board of Directors. "She is a proven leader with a strong vision of how to mobilize the power of philanthropy to effect positive change--and she has a true passion for the work."

Fortunato graduated magna cum laude from the Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Virginia and earned an MBA (also magna cum laude) from George Washington University. She serves on the Health Leadership Circle of MomentUs, a campaign for climate change solutions. She served as a member of the Serving Communities Committee of the National Conversation on Public Health and Chemical Exposures and as a citizen representative on the Montgomery County Citizen's Advisory Board. A native of Connecticut, she and her family look forward to relocating here from their current home in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Connecticut Council for Philanthropy (CCP) is an association of grantmakers committed to promoting and supporting effective philanthropy for the public good. CCP's 114 members are foundations (private, corporate, community), business and corporate giving programs, bank trusts, donor-advised funds, individual philanthropists and those serving the philanthropic sector. CCP members annually grant more than $858 million from assets of more than $7.6 billion.

Meléndez has served on the Hartford Foundation's board for close to 12 years, the last three as chair. She has more than 30 years of successful managerial experience in state government, higher education and at Hartford Healthcare, from which she is recently retired. She will take a leave of absence from the board during this time, and will serve as interim until a new president is named. Meléndez is not a candidate for the position. Linda J. Kelly announced her retirement as president of the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, last March, effective next month, after 10 years leading the organization.

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities.  In 2015, the Foundation celebrated ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations.  It has awarded grants of more than $680 million since its founding in 1925.

PHOTO:  Karla Fortunato (left), Yvette Meléndez (right)