Tony Shih: Our Core Values
An organization’s core values are generally not an ideal topic for a public essay. Yet these are not ordinary times. Each day we are confronted with events that challenge both our individual moral compass and our identity as a nation. In times like these, I believe it is important for organizations to be clear about what they stand for. This is particularly true for nonprofits, which—by virtue of their tax-exempt status—have a special obligation to the public.
The essence of United Hospital Fund’s mission, “to build a more effective health care system for every New Yorker,” has guided us throughout our history. Those of you who have worked with us likely have a general sense of the principles by which we operate. But, to be honest, we have never clearly articulated those—not to ourselves, nor to the public.
Over the past few months, as part of a broader planning process, we’ve begun—with input from our staff, board, supporters, and other external stakeholders—to do just that. For our friends and colleagues, where we’ve ended up so far should be neither new nor surprising. But by clearly stating these values in this public forum, we are holding ourselves accountable to them.
We have intentionally limited ourselves to four “core” values—certainly not a comprehensive accounting but, taken together, an accurate distillation of what distinguishes us.
INTEGRITY. We are committed to rigorous and objective inquiry and analysis, embracing our role as an independent, trusted source of information. When you read one of our reports, you can rest assured that it is based on evidence and free of bias. We believe that the best public policy decisions are those informed by facts. This will be even more important as we move into an era of greater resource constraints, when trade-offs between two or more paths may be the norm. Although we can disagree about principles—whether or not universal coverage and access is a moral imperative, for instance—we should be able to rely on evidence rather than ideology to assess potential policy options and their impact.
Our core values serve as guideposts
as we work toward a more effective health care system
for all New Yorkers.
EQUITY. We focus our activities on improving the lives of underserved, disadvantaged populations, because we believe an important measure of a civilized society is how it cares for the less fortunate. We acknowledge the long-standing disparities in health and health care between segments of our society, and strive to address the causes of those disparities so that all people can lead long, healthy lives. This underlies our historic commitment to expanding insurance coverage and increasing its efficacy, and to improving Medicaid services. It also guides our more recent efforts to improve care delivery, as embodied in our Children’s Health Initiative, addressing issues of poverty, homelessness, and other stressors affecting the health of both children and their families.
COLLABORATION. We believe that in order to find solutions to complex problems, we need participation from a wide range of stakeholders, and we actively seek partners in our work. This is not only because we truly believe that incorporating diverse perspectives often leads to the best solution, but also because we understand that all change is essentially political. Without listening to and including the stakeholders who will be affected, moving forward in any meaningful way will be all that much more challenging.
LONG VIEW. We take a long-term perspective, tackling persistent problems that require systemic solutions. We know our strengths and limitations, and have historically made the greatest impact by keeping a steady, focused commitment to an issue for several years, sometime decades. Our work on expansion of insurance coverage in New York State—helping shape programs like Child Health Plus and Family Health Plus, and the aggressive implementation of the Affordable Care Act—is, again, a prime example of that. We don’t ignore immediate problems and short-term responses, but we recognize that pivoting from issue to issue is not our strength, and not, therefore, the focus of our activities.
These values—integrity, equity, collaboration, the long view—are at the core of all United Hospital Fund does. We embrace them, and are proud that they serve as our guideposts as we work toward our vision of quality health care and better health for every New Yorker.