Funders that care about health equity have come a long way in the last 20 years. They increasingly emphasize social determinants of health, think intentionally about how to work with communities, and want to make sure those relationships are more authentic and driven by community priorities.

The next frontier for health philanthropy is to squarely name and redress power imbalances and systems of oppression – racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia and ableism – at the root of health inequities.

Addressing the social determinants of health – at least in the manner that they have been conceptualized and measured to date – alone will not support our nation’s efforts to reach our health potential … It is time to address power … Advancing equity, therefore, requires attention to power (as a determinant) and empowerment, or building power (as a process).

So what would it mean for health funders to focus on power? As we’ve experimented with this question, we offer a few ideas for funders to consider. While some ideas are primarily relevant to health funders, most are applicable to any grantmaker that is working toward equitable, thriving communities.

  • Develop a theory of change that includes how power and oppression constrain – or support – policy, systems and environmental change.
  • Learn from, ally with and support those who believe in power-building to make headway on the issues you care about (read: work with community organizers).
  • Uphold a narrative within health philanthropy that’s about building power to advance health equity, which acknowledges entrenched systems of oppression.
  • Create a framework for measuring outcomes and progress. Fund the development of appropriate metrics for organizing and advocacy that advances health equity.

Read the full article about health equity philanthropy by Lili Farhang at The National Committee of Responsive Philanthropy.