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An occasional series profiling interesting grants and grantmakers

Cambia Health Foundation: Moving Innovation to Impact

Although Cambia Health Foundation is relatively young, the roots of parent company Cambia Health Solutions run almost a century deep in the Pacific Northwest, to the time in the early 20th century when loggers and their families pooled their money to insure against medical costs due to injury or illness.

Following decades of growth and a major repositioning in 2010, Cambia Health Solutions today comprises more than 20 companies offering six health plans in four states, serving more than 2 million people. Cambia Health Foundation, created in 2007 as a 501(c)(3) grantmaking organization, targets its funding to support the parent company’s goal of creating a more person-focused and economically sustainable health care system on a national level.

Based in Portland, Oregon, the foundation strategically invests and partners with organizations regionally and nationally to move health care innovation into impact in three categories: advancing palliative care quality, access and understanding; improving the mental and behavioral health of underserved children; and transforming health care to a more person-focused, equitable, and economically sustainable system.

“We are committed to a collaborative approach in our grantmaking and strive to be a catalyst to inspire others to collaborate,” says Angela Hult, the foundation’s executive director, who also serves as director of corporate social responsibility for Cambia Health Solutions. “Working closely with other funders and stakeholders is crucial to ensuring that the voices of patients and their families are not only heard, but play a central role in driving the positive changes necessary to transform our health system.”

Championing Palliative Care

Respecting the wishes of people and their families is especially important when facing serious or long-term illness, which is why the foundation has made its Sojourns program, which advances palliative care, a major focus since its first grants were made in 2009.

The signature program of the Sojourns portfolio is the Sojourns Scholar Leadership Program, which is designed to develop the next generation of palliative care leaders to care for our aging population. Currently there is just one palliative care medical professional per 1,200 people facing serious illness in the United States, creating tremendous gaps in person-focused care. To address this widening disparity, the Sojourns Scholars program awards up to 10 grants to palliative care doctors and nurses across the nation each year, with each individual receiving a two-year, $180,000 grant to fund research, clinical, educational or policy projects to advance palliative care. A national palliative care leader also mentors each Scholar, further broadening his or her learning and leadership development opportunities.

In addition to preparing the next generation of palliative care leaders, the foundation also has invested in advancing palliative care regionally and nationally. In 2014, the foundation awarded a $10 million endowment to UW Medicine in Seattle to secure the future for its Palliative Care Center of Excellence, renamed the Cambia Palliative Care Center of Excellence. The center employs research and education to improve quality of life for patients who need palliative care: those at the end of life as well as patients with serious illnesses, chronic conditions, or traumatic injuries.

The foundation also collaborated with The John A. Hartford Foundation and the California Health Care Foundation to fund a national poll earlier this year exploring the views of primary care and specialist physicians about end-of-life and advance care planning conversations with patients, as well as a second phase of focus groups with physicians, nurse practitioners, and others on the health care team to explore barriers identified in the poll to having end-of-life conversations in more detail.

Among other Sojourns projects Cambia Health Foundation has supported are the Center to Advance Palliative Care, The Conversation Project, a state-by-state report card on access to palliative care in our nation’s hospitals, and an online curriculum for the End-of-Life Nursing Consortium that integrates palliative care training into undergraduate nursing education across the country.

Cambia and GIA

Primarily as a result of its focus on palliative care and an interest in addressing issues for vulnerable elders and their families, Cambia Health Foundation joined GIA in 2010. It was the beginning of a beautiful partnership, with the foundation most recently stepping up to host the 2016 GIA Annual Conference in Portland.

“GIA provides a lot of value to its members,” says Elyse Salend, MSW, program officer for the Sojourns program. “Our foundation found a place there that is complementary and supportive. Working with GIA is always a pleasure.

“GIA is a great organization for collaboration and bringing people together. One foundation could never do things alone in a silo. For the greater good, we have to work together.”


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