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Shifting Priorities to Address Inequities: JBRF’s Commitment to Black Women’s Health and Economic Opportunities

In line with its founding mission to care for D.C. residents, the Jane Bancroft Robinson Foundation (JBRF) began its work by offering funding to community-based organizations that sought to improve broad social determinants of health, such as health care, education, food, and housing in the East of the River neighborhoods of D.C. Over time, JBRF came to realize that to have the level of meaningful and measurable impact that it desired, resources had to be refocused. To affect targeted and sustainable change, the board of trustees chose to shift its funding priorities. The Foundation leaders led extensive discussions on which of the social determinants of health had both significant inequities across D.C. communities and were factors upon which they could have the most impact. They also focused on how they could leverage centers of excellence within the Johns Hopkins Health System.

Their analysis showed overwhelmingly the following highlights:

  • The sharpest inequities across D.C. existed in health care and employment, with some residents specifically suffering higher cancer mortality rates and a lack of economic opportunity that further exacerbated these issues.
  • These inequities were felt most gravely by Black women. With a mortality rate 12% higher than other racial groups, Black women experienced later diagnosis and had a more challenging journey toward timely and quality cancer treatment.
  • The highest skew of inequities were East of the Anacostia River in Wards 7 and 8 compared with the other D.C. wards.

The shift from funding broad social determinants of health to workforce development and cancer patient navigation was a logical step for JBRF, as it allowed the Foundation to enhance its collaboration with health care organizations that were positioned to improve both health and economic outcomes within the targeted area.

After determining how it wanted to shift focus areas, JBRF zeroed in on the population of Black women living in Wards 7 and 8 of Washington, D.C., as its primary beneficiaries. Black women, who are often neglected in the realm of quality health care, face an alarmingly high cancer mortality rate due to reasons like limited access to care, late diagnosis, and socioeconomic and cultural obstacles. The negative impact on their health further exacerbates their economic struggles, which leads to a daily struggle to survive. JBRF is committed to addressing the critical need for enhanced health services and overall support for Black women who reside in Wards 7 and 8 in D.C.

JBRF understands that meaningful philanthropy necessitates a community-driven approach, which places the needs and experiences of those most affected at the forefront of grant-making efforts. To accomplish this, JBRF has adopted a trust-based philanthropy approach, which is a strategy that empowers the communities and organizations it aims to help by giving them an influential voice in the decision-making process. This approach prioritizes the lived experiences and voices of the community over professional grant-making expertise, and it values collaboration and mutual respect as the best way to achieve sustainable and effective outcomes. The Foundation’s trust-based philanthropy emphasizes the need to share power with the community rather than merely providing financial assistance without considering the broader context. By empowering individuals in the community to create their own solutions, JBRF is working toward reducing disparities and promoting equity. Read more about JBRF’s approach to trust-based philanthropy here.

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