Policy Work as a Tool of Change – Our Health Policy Journey


Kristy Klein Davis, Chief Strategy Officer

Our mission as a Foundation, to improve the health and well-being of people and communities most in need, is ambitious. Since our founding in 2000, we have known that if we’re truly committed to this, we’ll need to use a variety tools and tactics, take some risk, and have the long-view in mind. Given that, engaging in the policy process is an essential piece of the puzzle for us, as we view our health policy work as a cross-cutting function that enhances all that we do across all issues. This includes policy driven by both state and local government as well as policy adopted by organizations operating in local communities. We added a full Health Policy portfolio to our work in 2003 and have been engaged in a wide range of related efforts ever since.

After a decade and a half of work, we had collected many individual stories of impact, success, and lessons learned within the portfolio. What we had not yet done was write the overarching story of health policy and looked at the interconnectivity of the individual projects and efforts as a comprehensive collection. As a learning organization, we recognized that doing this would trigger new insights and generate big questions that could help shape an even more impactful health policy agenda in the future. In 2018, we engaged Stephen Isaacs of Health Policy Associates to conduct an investigative writing project to craft a big-picture narrative of our health policy work thus far, aimed at giving us a fresh look at the work many of our staff and partners engage in every day.

We are pleased to share the report with our partners and others in the field, with hopes that the lessons we have learned may be helpful to others. The report covers a lot of ground. It provides insight on how the Foundation was formed and describes the effort that has gone into establishing a nonpartisan Health Policy portfolio in a partisan political environment. Most importantly, the report lifts up the stories of our partners who are working to further health equity and ensure that everyone in Missouri has a fair and just opportunity to access health care. Each story spans years of hard work and is a testament to the passionate, hardworking organizations and people with whom we work.

As expected, the resulting narrative has given us the ability to see our challenges and opportunities in a whole new light. The piece puts the work into the context of the broader environmental trends in state and national politics that shape the possibilities and limitations of our undertakings. Capturing the long view offered a different perspective on individual stories, providing clarity into how change happens over time and how our work interacts with and responds to an environment that has transformed drastically over the course of the last 15 years.

We want to acknowledge and thank those partners who were interviewed for candidly sharing their experiences. This report and its findings would not be possible without their perspectives, and we look forward to continuing to work alongside them in the years to come.