The momentum for health equity that began with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic is not over. Many corporate philanthropic leaders are reporting a continued—if not expanded—focus on health equity, with more than 80% of C-suite executives naming health equity as a top-10 goal for 2024. Nearly 50% of healthcare and life science companies plan to increase their investments in the coming year.
To deepen these efforts, more corporate executives are looking to integrate health equity into their overall enterprise-wide strategies and are looking to leaders of their company’s philanthropic effort for inspiration on how to effectively move the needle on health equity. Coming into 2024, we’re excited about three key trends among leading corporate foundations and social impact teams:
1. Expanding into new frontiers with deeper health equity investments
Building on 3+ years of learning what it means to invest in health equity, many companies are buckling down and pushing their teams to think how to go farther in addressing systemic inequities. Some of the examples—though certainly not all—we’re particularly excited about include:
- Companies requiring that, going forward, all grants have a health equity component, with more specificity on principles that should guide grantees’ health equity efforts (e.g., cultural and structural competency, community engagement in the design and implementation, targeted equity lens for specific social determinants of health)
- Prioritizing additional dimensions of inequities such as a lack of geographic access (e.g., rural) or gender-affirming care and addressing intersecting identities, which often means forming new partnerships and building connections with smaller or less visible organization
- Making more place-based, multi-year, and ecosystem investments to address social determinants of health (SDOH) and other root causes of inequities
2. Improving the efficiency of health equity strategies to further improve health outcomes
Despite over $2 billion in corporate health equity investments from 2012 to 2022, progress is reducing health inequities remains marginal. Corporate philanthropy leaders are increasingly understanding the structural and systemic root causes of inequities and recognize these changes will take time. A few years in, they are now looking to work on the effectiveness of their health equity strategies. To refine their approaches for impact, some companies are funding learning efforts among grantees and the broader sector to surface insights from the uptick in health equity investments over the last three years. These learning communities aim to identify which strategies are working and not working, pinpoint unaddressed or underfunded inequities, and discover opportunities for collaboration.
Corporate funders are also following the lead of many private philanthropy organizations by taking an adaptive, mixed-methods approach to understand the role their investments play in improving population health outcomes within a complex set of changing environmental, policy, and social factors. For example, corporate leaders are increasingly investing in measurement and learning systems that include both quantitative and qualitative measures, as well as contribution analyses that give a more nuanced and evidence-based understanding of the company’s attributable impact on health equity over time.
3. Exploring new approaches to transform practices and amplify their impact
Lastly, we’re encouraged by the ways in which many leading corporate funders integrated equity-based practices into their own processes over the last few years. These include applying best practices for equity in grantmaking (e.g., reduced application and reporting requirements), inclusion of underserved and underrepresented patient and community voices in processes (e.g., listening to community needs; including communities in strategy processes, grant review committees, advisory boards; and co-creating initiatives), and providing more unrestricted and operating funds to nonprofits. As philanthropy leaders build trust and closer connections with patients and communities, some of the leading companies bring in business leaders to these conversations, fostering closer connections, aligning on complementary health equity efforts, and being a source of ideas and connections for purpose-led or health equity business efforts in their companies.
2024 looks to be a promising year for corporate philanthropy leaders to build on the sustained funding in health equity of the past few years. We’re seeing many innovative and exciting funding mechanisms and practices across companies, not just the three above, and some leading companies are making significant strides in all three ways. In addition to supporting grantees and communities to advance health equity, we also anticipate that more corporate philanthropy leaders will be asked to become strategic partners to business leaders and executives to advance broader purpose and societal engagement efforts across the enterprise.
This blog is part of a series written by FSG leaders on opportunities for corporate philanthropy in 2024. Read the full series with pieces on health equity, environment, education/workforce development, and financial inclusion here.