Our 2021 annual report reviews the ways the Health Fund continued to evolve in pursuit of our mission throughout another year of adaptation. Read the introductory letter from Board Chair Susan Jandernoa below, and click here to read the full report [PDF].
Message from the Chair
2021 was a year of evolution for the Health Fund. We officially ushered in a new strategic plan, welcomed a new CEO, and—like our incredible grantees—continued to adapt to shifting circumstances in the health landscape.
When the Health Fund prepared to begin making grants in 2014, we were brand new. As a result, our first strategic plan painted in broad strokes, allowing for learning and iteration as we hired staff and grew operations. Several years and hundreds of grants later, we had the benefit of experience: lessons in how to be an effective partner, a surer understanding of our role in the state’s health landscape, and a wealth of wisdom from our grantees.
For example, we know our grantmaking is helping address longstanding challenges in behavioral health and providing a critical funding source for programs focused on healthy aging. We’ve learned that our efforts in nutrition and healthy lifestyles are most effective when aimed at systems change, and locally-driven solutions are key to community health. We’ve also come to recognize areas where we can increase our impact, like maternal and infant health. And across the board we see how tackling health disparities is a critical first step to advancing health equity.
The new strategic plan is designed to guide us through 2025 with the benefit of both this hindsight and the insights of our dedicated staff, while leaving room to grow as we find new ways to fulfill our mission of a healthier Michigan. You can view the strategic plan and a one-page summary at mihealthfund.org/strategicplan.
With an updated direction came a timely, if bittersweet, opportunity to evolve our leadership in tandem with our strategy. Paul Hillegonds has been a stalwart champion of Michigan residents for decades, and we’ve been lucky to have him at the helm since we got off the ground in 2015. And our lucky streak continued as Neel Hajra joined us as the new CEO in the fall of 2021.
Neel brings with him abundant experience in community health, philanthropy, and the nonprofit sector in Michigan. He previously served as the CEO of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, where—of particular interest to the Health Fund—he helped the foundation become the largest grantmaker for older adults among Michigan community foundations. For more on Neel’s background, visit mihealthfund.org/MeetNeel.Paul and Neel have at least one major trait in common: a collaborative approach to leadership. They’ve worked together over many months to ensure a smooth transition, and that spirit is on display in a conversation with both Paul and Neel captured for this report. Their dialogue covers their respective insights about where the Health Fund has been, where we’re headed, and what challenges and opportunities remain in our path. Read the conversation on page six.
Beyond our own operations, the world at large presented opportunities to evolve in 2021. As COVID-19 persisted, we continued to support virtual healthcare solutions and vaccination efforts for hard-to-reach populations like homebound older adults. These initiatives may have been spurred or hastened by the pandemic, but they also helped lay the groundwork for stronger crisis response and increased healthcare access in the future.
And as that future unfolds, we will continue to evolve alongside our grantees and Michigan communities. The Health Fund’s next five years will be built on the foundation of our initial strategic plan and shaped in the spirit of our enduring principles. These years will also be energized and animated by our new plan and our new CEO. This moment—where we can articulate how the past flows into the present—is simply one opportunity to take stock of our evolution, to reflect on what we’ve learned, and to look ahead to all we can accomplish together.
Wishing you health and wellness,