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Kansas United Methodist Health Philanthropy in Action
2013 Annual Report

  • President's Reflections
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Kim MooreChange is often a dirty word. We have all seen the bumper stickers which have a political message ending with "...and you can keep the change." Interestingly, the expression "keeping the change" -- on its own -- can be a message of appreciation or real benefit (if the "change" amount is large enough). No matter what else may be said about change, when it is explicit it will also frequently be hard to implement. There is something in the human psyche which resists change and almost always there are vested interests which prefer the status quo. That may be learned behavior, as sometimes change does not bring real improvement -- or we fall into an unrewarding cycle of "change for change's sake." A good example would seem to be the frequent changes in some educational approaches (phonics, whole language, modern math, etc.)

Some people ride out change seemingly unscathed. My wife tells fondly of a teaching mentor she had who said, "When phonics is in, I throw open my door and invite all the experts in to gush appreciation. When phonics is out, I close my door and continue doing phonics because it works." While we can understand this teacher's approach, it also shows just how hard it is to bring a vision for change into actual reality at the frontline.

The Health Ministry Fund claims it is about change. This requires us to focus our limited resources and turn away opportunities which are not consistent with our planned work. The changes we support are not dramatic but, in every case, we find there is resistance and preference for the way things currently work. In our history, this desire for change has been as simple as advocating for community water fluoridation and dealing with irrational opposition. It can be as messy as desiring to add a new mid-level to the dental team and needing to change state law, over the objections of some dentists we have worked with on many other issues. Our change work can go to fundamental ways things are done (or not done) such as promoting social and emotional screening for very young children or promoting five key practices in hospitals which improve breastfeeding initiation and duration rates.

Our fundamental philosophy is that planned and guided change -- based on ideas developed from broad groups of interested people and the best information we can uncover -- will produce better results than allowing external forces, including love of the status quo, to determine our future. Rural health care is an area where the issue of planned or externally driven change appears to be joined. The current configuration of hospital and rural health clinic which dominates in Kansas is undergoing stress from changes in reimbursement, continuing workforce shortages, declining populations and volumes, and consolidations and new affiliations of providers. It is easy to get into a survival mode. It is also easy to see change as threatening when past changes (consolidation, regionalization) have not produced available services and have taken economic life from the community. The Kansas Rural Health System Improvement Pilot Project is designed to allow local communities to learn about their systems and models for change and pilot new approaches which offer the promise of long-term viability with improved access and quality, and with reduced cost. It remains to be seen if there are approaches which can be adapted to, and adopted by, these Kansas frontier communities to improve the health care system and retain economic benefits in the community. The first results of the Project will be known in late 2014.

Change has even affected the Health Ministry Fund itself. The Kansas West Conference, our historic parent, was merged into a new Great Plains Conference covering all of Kansas and Nebraska. We have responded by extending our Healthy Congregations program throughout the new Conference. We will continue to be a Kansas grantmaker except for that program. We have also decided to retain our governance roots in Kansas West territory and will continue to select directors (name change from trustees this year as well) from the western 2/3 of Kansas.

While change may be hard and messy, it is a fact of life. We continue to spot opportunities where change can create enormous benefits for the health of Kansans. We are committed to pursuing those changes with energy, resources, strong partnerships, and humility. We invite you to join in our efforts as advocates, members of our new Impact Funding Team, or grantees.

Kim

Kim Moore,
President
[read more reflections here on our staff blog - To My Way of Thinking]

 

 

 

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