Missouri Foundation for Health Responds to COVID-19 Pandemic

Courtney Stewart
Missouri Foundation for Health

(ST. LOUIS, MO) – During this time of growing uncertainty, our commitment to improving the health and well-being of Missourians remains steadfast. In acknowledgement of what may be the biggest public health threat in our lifetime, the Foundation has joined with statewide partners to vigorously address the COVID-19 pandemic. Though the COVID-19 crisis has challenged us all to rethink how we can connect and support each other, the combined, aggressive efforts of so many dedicated partners continues to strengthen our resolve.

As the situation continues to unfold, the Foundation’s initial efforts are focused on supporting the public health and social infrastructures necessary to bolster the frontline response to the crisis across the state. To ensure the responsiveness of state government to communities most vulnerable in this event, MFH has stayed in close communication, working collaboratively with the Office of the Governor, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and other state agencies to lift up concerns and views of people working on the frontlines, and elevate the needs and priorities of local communities.

As part of its immediate, short-term response, the Foundation has committed $15 million to statewide COVID-19 health and prevention efforts. Given their critical nature to the health safety net, the Foundation has provided an initial $7 million in support to federally qualified health centers and community mental health centers across Missouri. Additionally, the Foundation has partnered with Missouri food banks to bridge a workforce gap in the packaging and distribution of food by bringing in local chambers of commerce to facilitate temporary employment of available food-service professionals.

An important component of the MFH response has also been the coordination of communications activities with state and local officials to develop consistent public messaging that will protect health and save lives. Public messaging campaigns are in development for communities across Missouri, including specific activities geared toward educating foreign-born and disenfranchised populations. MFH also created a social media toolkit that is being used and disseminated by local public health agencies and other public health entities in rural communities.

While focusing our energy on the statewide, public health response, the Foundation commends the efforts of other philanthropic organizations – including the St. Louis Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks – to quickly set up funds to support the nonprofit sector as they face a significant increase in needs of their clients as a result of COVID-19. MFH has contributed financial resources to the efforts of several of these institutions. By partnering with these institutions, the Foundation has issued critical funding to support vulnerable populations such as seniors, those with disabilities, and rural residents who lack access to care.

The prospect of rural Missouri being especially hard hit as the coronavirus spreads is of real concern, with cases in rural communities increasing by a staggering 28% in a single day last week. Initially rural areas were thought to be more insulated from the threat due to low population density, but as COVID-19 continues to reach more rural communities the effects will be exacerbated for several reasons. The virus targets the elderly and those with chronic health conditions, both more prevalent in rural areas. Rural communities also have a less robust health infrastructure (equipment, medical specialists, ICU beds) with fewer resources to adequately respond. All these together translate into an increased risk for deaths and long-term negative health impacts in rural areas.“This is why we need to underscore the importance of having a statewide stay-at-home order,” said Bob Hughes, MFH president and CEO. “If vulnerable rural communities fail to implement the preventive measures of social distancing, when the coronavirus does reach those areas the health consequences may be unusually severe. We also recognize that without this statewide order, our health care systems and medical hubs will continue to be overburdened and unable to effectively treat all Missourians.”

Missouri Foundation for Health is a resource for the region, working with communities and nonprofits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health. As a catalyst for change, the Foundation improves the health of Missourians through partnership, experience, knowledge, and funding. To learn more please visit mffh.org

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