Celebrating 20 Years

November 13, 2020

A Generation Investing in the Health of North Carolina.

When the then leaders of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina filed Articles of Incorporation to establish a foundation, one could only imagine the impact this newly formed organization would have.

That was November 13, 2000. And what started off as two staff and a $1M grant to the Medical Foundation of East Carolina University for the ECU Care program has grown into a team of 13 that has invested $153 million through more than 1,100 grants in pursuit of a vision to make North Carolina one of the healthiest states. Now, a generation later, the organization is fortunate to have the opportunity to reflect on its first 20 years.

While our work has evolved over the decades – taking on different areas of focus, partners, program offerings, and grant opportunities – our mission has remained the same: to improve the health and well-being of everyone in North Carolina.

Driving this mission is a diverse network of relationships formed across the state.

”It has been our great honor to partner with, and support, dedicated organizations over the last two decades; organizations that – among many other things – are creating healthy community conditions for residents; improving oral health access in underserved areas; making healthy, local food accessible; and ensuring children and families have the resources they need to thrive."

John Lumpkin, MD, MPH

And while we can’t list all the grants we’ve made throughout the last 20 years, we’ve narrowed in on a few highlights that point us to where we’re going today.

Early Childhood
In 2010, we partnered with – and invested in – the North Carolina Partnership for Children to launch Shape NC, a collaborative effort with experts in child nutrition, physical activity, and outdoor learning environments working with child care centers to transform environments, practices, and policies to ensure children enter kindergarten at a healthy weight and ready to learn. Today, we are expanding our approach to support comprehensive efforts to ensure all children have the resources and opportunities to be healthy.

Healthy Food
In 2012, we made our first grant to the Center for Environmental Farming Systems within our Healthy Food focus area. Since then, we have continued to invest in their work to expand and strengthen the local food council network in order to catalyze statewide community engagement in building a more equitable North Carolina food system through local- and state-level policy and systems change. To date, we have invested more than $32M toward increasing healthy food access for all in North Carolina and are adapting our strategy to address the long-standing inequities within our food system.

Healthy Communities
In 2013, we launched Community-Centered Health – a long-term, multi-dimensional approach to achieving health equity. Now, we have invested in nine community partnerships across North Carolina who are using community-led processes to act on root causes of health inequities in their communities, shifting power, and spurring systems change.  Community-Centered Health is the cornerstone of a broader effort to support communities across North Carolina in creating the conditions for good health. The impact of these grants, and relationships with our grantees, has been transformational for the Foundation, cementing our commitment to building capacity for local, experience-informed leadership to create and implement strategies that address inequities.

Oral Health
In 2016, we began our support of the North Carolina Oral Health Collaborative (NCOHC) to convene stakeholders to identify and address systemic barriers to achieve oral health equity. NCOHC and partners from across the state advocated for changes to the rules that cover public health hygienists – a policy win that is being implemented to support increased access to preventive oral health services in school and community settings across North Carolina.

Naming our Values and Committing to Equity
In 2017, we defined and formalized our core organizational values – authenticity, collaboration, curiosity, equity, health, and leadership – with equity at the center of our work moving forward. Since naming a formal commitment to equity, our team has been on an internal learning journey, working to create a culture and practices that reflect the values we espouse. In June 2020, our Board of Directors allocated $10M to deepen our focus on racial equity and social justice in our grantmaking, marking another step forward in our evolution.

Looking Forward to the Next 20 Years

And while we reflect on the past, we also look forward to the future, with a desire to learn and a need to continue to evolve. We’re again asking ourselves what impact can be made? Where will North Carolina be in another generation? In 2040 when we reflect on this moment in time, what do we hope to be true? What will we commit to in order to get there?

We commit to supporting and intentionally funding more organizations led by, and serving, people of color.

We commit to listening and learning from our grantees and people living in communities most impacted by historic disinvestment as we develop our strategies and programs.

We commit to identifying and explicitly addressing structures in the food system that disadvantage Black, Latino, and American Indian communities to create a more equitable and resilient food system.

We commit to creating more opportunities to seek and center the experience of Black, Latino, and American Indian communities in the development of oral health policy and practice change.

We commit to supporting the early childhood sector as it redesigns systems and programs in a way that reflects the post-COVID world and centers racial equity.

We commit to supporting organizations, coalitions, and networks in identifying and impacting systems that affect the health of their communities.

We commit to supporting local- and state-level policies that center the experiences of community members and increase opportunities for health.

We commit to actively adapt our strategies and metrics to ensure they reflect the systemic change needed to mitigate the disparities in health, wealth, and opportunity that disproportionately affect Black, Latino, American Indian, as well as rural communities.

We commit to working to ensure that our organizational culture, our grantmaking, and all of our approaches reflect our commitment to equity.

And finally, we commit to being accountable, vigilant in changing the status quo, and to ensuring our mission statement takes on its full meaning: improving the health and well-being of everyone in North Carolina so we will be one of the healthiest states, in a generation.