Local communities can expect the number and asset size of philanthropic foundations to increase, due to the rise in health care consolidations driven by health care reform. In the past, assets of this kind may have been underused and at times, even undocumented. A new database created by UNC Charlotte researchers can help bridge this gap.

"Health care reform heightens the importance of identifying and maximizing existing community resources," say researchers Sabrina Jones Niggel and William P. Brandon in their report, "Health Legacy Foundations: A New Census," published in the GrantWatch section of the January 2014 issue of Health Affairs. Niggel is a doctoral candidate in Health Services Research in the College of Health and Human Services, and Brandon is the Metrolina Medical Foundation Distinguished Professor of Public Policy on Health and a professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences.

In their work, they undertook a systematic search for foundations created with proceeds from nonprofit health care sales and other transactions. Information from this search resulted in a comprehensive database with 306 "health legacy foundations" in 43 states. Prior to their research, Grantmakers In Health maintained the only database of these type foundations, listing 155 when they last reported on them in 2009. The new database includes critical information such as location, date established, asset values and grant awards, geographic service areas, and the foundations' tax-exempt status.

The UNC Charlotte researchers' database not only identifies existing resources, it also sets the stage for marking new or newly expanded foundations. Recent times have seen a resurgence in hospital deals, which "likely presages another surge in new health legacy foundations, as did the wave of health care mergers and acquisitions in the early 1980s and mid-1990s," they say. Over the past three decades, nonprofit health care entities often have struck agreements with for-profit firms to sell, lease, merge or otherwise change their assets. These changes have resulted in billions of dollars nationwide in charitable assets, most often managed through the creation or expansion of philanthropic foundations.

In 2010, the same year the Affordable Care Act was enacted, health care institutions announced 77 deals, the most since 2001, research shows. The two following years, 2011 and 2012, saw 92 deals and 94 deals for a total of 263 agreements.

The researchers also considered the "extraordinary' potential for the foundations to address health-related matters, as a result of their concentration in the South, with its higher rates of health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, obesity and stroke. The foundations for the most part have committed to grant-making in the local communities where the converting hospital often was the only hospital. They at times also have chosen to provide capacity-building grants to help struggling charities stay afloat, especially during the Great Recession, the research indicates.

Niggel and Brandon also contend that while local community members at times oppose the sales of their nonprofit hospitals, such sales may stabilize the facilities. If they stay open, they continue to provide health care; the economic capital that generates jobs and provides health services continues or expands; new social capital comes into the community through the foundations; and human capital grows due to the foundations' and grantees' need for expanded skills. Such transactions also can free up local assets tied up in buildings and equipment and move them to where they can be reinvested in liquid assets devoted to community needs, they suggest.

The researchers also suggest that consideration of the adoption of the more comprehensive generic term "health legacy foundation" is a way to foster more precise thinking of the variation in the diverse but related phenomena occurring in these health care mergers and other consolidations.

For now, a new, more comprehensive database exists to help communities nationwide better understand local resources. In the future, more study of these unique philanthropic entities could shed more light on trends in health and health care philanthropy.

CTG was named by the State University of New York at Buffalo (UB) as one of the companies that will gain access to its Center for Computational Research (CCR), which houses UB's supercomputing resources including one of the world's largest, most powerful supercomputers.  CTG will become a key user of the CCR as part of one of several UB initiatives to be funded by investments recently announced by Governor Cuomo to establish New York State as a national leader in genomic medicine and to advance new ways to treat, prevent and manage serious diseases.  These investments will leverage UB's significant expertise in genomics, medical research, and the analysis of patient data with the capabilities of UB's research centers housed within its Center for Computational Research, New York Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, and Institute for Health Informatics.  CTG has previously provided IT services to UB and affiliated organizations for big data medical informatics projects.

James R. Boldt, CTG chairman and chief executive officer commented, "Access to the CCR's supercomputers and the big data infrastructure for electronic medical records and claims data to be built by UB will help CTG to enhance our clinical decision support application for better managing chronic kidney disease and to expand it to other diseases.  Based upon CTG's experience and expertise in big data analytics for healthcare, we also anticipate introducing an offering that would enable firms to perform data analytics using the CCR supercomputers and big data infrastructure.  Our relationship with UB's CCR will differentiate CTG as we deliver new medical informatics products and services and help position us as an important emerging big data analytics company targeted to healthcare."

Recovery Act Investment to Bolster the Nation’s Scientific Workforce

Underscoring the Obama Administration’s commitment to investing in innovation and research, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced that 69 scientists from across the nation will receive up to $85 million in funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for five-year research grants as part of DOE’s new Early Career Research Program.  The new effort is designed to bolster the nation’s scientific workforce by providing support to exceptional researchers during the crucial early career years, when many scientists do their most formative work.

“This investment reflects the Administration’s strong commitment to creating jobs and new industries through scientific innovation,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.  “Strong support of scientists in the early career years is crucial to renewing America’s scientific workforce and ensuring U.S. leadership in discovery and innovation for many years to come.”

Under the program, university-based researchers will receive at least $150,000 per year to cover summer salary and research expenses.  For researchers based at DOE national laboratories, where DOE typically covers full salary and expenses of laboratory employees, grants will be at least $500,000 per year to cover year-round salary plus research expenses.  Beginning with the next fiscal year, the Department’s Office of Science plans to continue the program, choosing new candidates on an annual basis, and supporting them under annual appropriations.

To be eligible for an award, a researcher must be an untenured, tenure-track assistant professor at a U.S. academic institution or a full-time employee at a DOE national laboratory, who received a Ph.D. within the past ten years.  Research topics are required to fall within the purview of the Department’s Office of Science’s six major program offices:

  • Advanced Scientific Computing Research
  • Basic Energy Sciences
  • Biological and Environmental Research
  • Fusion Energy Sciences
  • High Energy Physics
  • Nuclear Physics

Awardees were selected from a pool of 1,750 university- and national laboratory-based applicants.  Selection was based on peer review by outside scientific experts.  Projects announced today are selections for financial award. The final details for each project award are subject to final contract negotiations between DOE and the awardees.

A list of the 69 awardees, their institutions, and titles of research projects is available on the Early Career Research Program webpage.

NSF grant compiles Big Data for healthier living

A UT Arlington computer scientist is leading a new, National Science Foundation project to mine electronic medical records data to help physicians personalize patient treatment, predict health care needs and identify risks that can lead to readmission.

Heng Huang, an associate professor of the Computer Science & Engineering Department, is the leading principal investigator on an $461,098 grant titled "Robust Large-Scale Electronic Medical Record Data Mining Framework to Conduct Risk Stratification for Personalized Intervention." The work is part of a $892,587 collaborative research project with UT Southwestern Medical Center and Southern Methodist University.

"If collecting and deciphering this data can give doctors better information so they can give patients better health care, it will make a big difference," Huang said. "We especially want to predict possible readmission dates for heart failure patients because timing is extremely important to them. It can be the difference between life and death."

Huang also said the work also could help health care professionals find the balance between patient hospital stays and insurance company's need to control hospital costs.

Last year, the Obama Administration announced the National Big Data Research and Development Initiative to address challenges and opportunities associated with "Big Data." These are such massively large and complex data sets that they can't be processed by traditional computer methods. Special algorithms are needed. The Big Data Initiative initially featured more than $200 million in new commitments from six federal departments and agencies. College of Engineering Dean Khosrow Behbehani said Huang's work is a leading project in the emerging field of health informatics research.

"Big data is becoming more and more a part of our lives. This research would help us and our physicians make important health-care decisions," Behbehani said. "Dr. Huang's work makes use of the increasingly large amounts of data being generated in the health care community and will use it to develop systems that help us live healthier, longer lives."

Behbehani said the research could lead to solving increasingly difficult big data problems in the areas of climate prediction, safer manufacturing and cybersecurity."

In the ongoing work, Huang teamed with the University of Indiana, Purdue University and the University of Pennsylvania on big data mining concerning the effects of drugs on patients by using the electronic medical records.

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