The Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy at the University of Southern California has released a study which shows that, while health philanthropy in California has grown dramatically in recent years, access to those resources varies widely in different regions of the state.
The study, Health Philanthropy in California: The Changing Landscape, argues that the growth of health philanthropy in the state over the last fifteen years is largely the result of the many new health foundations that were started with proceeds from the conversion of nonprofit health-care entities into for-profit enterprises. Twenty of these so-called "conversion" foundations account for assets totaling $7 billion — more than half the $13 billion in assets held by health conversion foundations nationwide. In addition, the conversion foundations provided almost two-thirds of the $325 million in grantmaking for health-related activities in California in 1999, a 15 percent increase from a year earlier.
The report also shows that, in philanthropic dollar terms, access to health philanthropy in California is skewed. For example, residents of Marin County, north of San Francisco, had access to $62.64 per person in 1999, compared to $13.02 in Los Angeles County and less than $1 in sixteen other areas. Variations in the number from region to region are due to the uneven geographic dispersion and focus of community and health conversion foundations, and underscore the need for additional information and evaluation on the grantmaking patterns of health foundations.
"It is important to recognize the relatively small size and limited capacity of health-related philanthropy resources in comparison to California's health-care needs and public expenditures," said Center director James M. Ferris. "We need to have realistic expectations about the role philanthropy can play in meeting the health needs of Californians. The limited resources and the scope of the challenge underscores the importance of health philanthropy playing a differentiated role in the health arena and highlights the potential usefulness of public private partnerships in leveraging philanthropic resources."