Some of the terms in our mission statement have no standard definitions and may be confusing and subject to misinterpretation. This primer is intended to clarify what UHF means when using these terms (i.e., the ones set in bold, underlined type in the mission statement below).
United Hospital Fund works to build an effective and equitable health care system for every New Yorker. An independent, nonprofit organization, we are a force for improvement, analyzing public policy to inform decision-makers, finding common ground among diverse stakeholders, and developing and supporting innovative programs that improve health and health care. We work to dismantle barriers in health policy and health care delivery that prevent equitable opportunities for health.
Effective and equitable health care system: We mean this to be a system that is affordable, accessible, and safe; that provides appropriate care for improving health outcomes; that is centered around patient needs and preferences; that is efficient; and that provides health care of equal quality regardless of differences in personal characteristics (such as race, gender, income, or immigration status). To achieve an equitable health care system, we need to embed racial and social justice within the culture, systems, policies, and practices of the health care system. Note that an equitable health care system is different from “health equity,” which refers to increasing opportunities for everyone to live the healthiest lives possible. Health equity depends on much more than what the health care system alone can deliver. We try to bridge this gap in our clinical-community partnerships focus area.
Independent: This means that we are not part of another organization (such as a subsidiary of a trade association), nor are we otherwise formally affiliated with stakeholders in the health care system (such as hospitals), payers (such as health insurance companies), or the government. It also signals that we are not part of any political party. Because we are independent, this means that when we weigh in on a particular issue, we’re doing so guided by our mission and our values, rather than for the interests of any one group. Note that “independent” does not mean that we don’t accept funds from health care stakeholders–for instance, we have contracts with government agencies, and many health care entities contribute to our annual fundraising events.
Nonprofit: A legal term that means we have been granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service because we are organized for a public or social benefit, and not for generating a profit for owners. Like other nonprofits, UHF has no owners nor shareholders. Specifically, we are a 501(c)3 organization, and as such we are limited in our ability to lobby (influence specific legislation) without risking our tax-exempt status. We are also prohibited from participating or intervening in any political campaign in support of or in opposition to a candidate for public office.
Force for improvement: This means that the objective of all our activities is to improve the health care system–that is, to make it more effective and equitable. The word “force” tries to capture the wide range of activities we do, such as educating consumers, working directly with providers on clinical improvement, and informing policymakers of the gaps and opportunities for improvement and potential solutions.
Decision-makers: Our policy-oriented research and writing is primarily targeted at this broadly defined group that includes policymakers, government officials, leaders of health care and community-based organizations, other researchers in health care (whether established and influential or not), and consumer advocacy organizations. However, we also try to make our work more accessible to a general audience, people who are interested in health care issues but may not be experts; to this end, we also target our work to media outlets focused on health care.
Diverse stakeholders: By this we mean inclusive of all categories of stakeholders in health care, including health care providers (e.g., hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, and nurses), payers (e.g., insurance companies and employers), and everyone who uses the health care system and government.
Innovative programs: We are referring here to new and original programs that we develop and implement to test a new idea or approach, or to generate new knowledge. Recent examples of this include our Pediatrics for an Equitable Developmental Start learning network and nursing home collaboratives on specific quality issues. By their nature, our programs are designed not to be perpetually supported or run by UHF.
Barriers in health policy and health care delivery that prevent equitable opportunities for health: Equitable opportunities for health mean everyone has an opportunity to be as healthy as possible. However, there are many barriers in health policy and health care delivery that prevent this. For instance, unequal access to affordable health insurance coverage or to high-quality care is a barrier that we seek to dismantle. There are also barriers outside the health care system, such as unsafe or unstable housing, poor education, and lack of employment opportunities. For these barriers, we focus on the role of the health care system in addressing them within our Clinical-Community Partnerships focus area. We recognize that many or most barriers are rooted in systemic racism, and that this knowledge is important in finding solutions to dismantle them. There is a need to embed racial and social justice in health care’s culture, systems, polices, and practice.
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