Our initial introduction to Health Care For All, a nonprofit organization that advocates for health justice in Massachusetts, was about a completely different idea than the one we ultimately funded. As we talked, a potential partnership became intriguing, and a direction emerged in which we both wanted to go. That led to far more than we recognized at the time.
We made our first grant to Health Care For All in 2017, as the Affordable Care Act came under attack. In 2018, a follow-up grant funded a new position of health justice organizer to develop the infrastructure, staffing, and relationships needed to train and organize Massachusetts consumers around a proactive vision for health and health care. The new position represented a model in three respects. It added a vital dimension to the work of Health Care For All, which had focused on policy but not community organizing. It tested the value and effectiveness of the position and strategy. It was also the first time that the Rx Foundation had become involved in advocacy and served as a model for growing our own community-focused initiatives.
The Rx Foundation’s initial one-year grant of $125,000 ultimately led to a far greater commitment to supporting Health Care For All’s decision to augment its policy-specific advocacy work with community organizing. That commitment totaled $800,000 over five years, including $575,000 to support Health Care For All’s health justice initiatives to create a proactive vision for health and health care in Massachusetts.
The impact of the grants extended far beyond the planned deliverables. The value of the new position was so firmly proven over three years that Health Care For All was able to find other funding to continue the position permanently. The community organizing capacity and network generated by the position led Health Care For All to create a Health Justice Academy and a Health Justice Council to build spaces for communities to become advocates, organizers, and leaders for the health justice movement in Massachusetts.
That same capacity and network for community organizing also enabled Health Care For All to secure a multi-million-dollar contract from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to advance vaccine equity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That contract included the awarding of over $1 million in direct grants to community organizations. Through the resulting Vaccine Equity Initiative, Health Care For All reached more than half a million households to have culturally appropriate conversations about, and connect people to, the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Rx Foundation has since funded more than 23 organizations, through grants and sub-grants, in more than 14 states, and through national partners, to advance community organizing for health justice.