September 27, 2021
An Update on COVID-19 from the Health Program
In March 2020, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation made a significant shift in its health funding. At the board’s approval, the Fry Foundation began providing general operating support—which allowed grantees to use the funds flexibly as they responded to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Fry Foundation’s grantees have made the most of this flexibility. They set up patient triage systems to provide critical care. They transitioned to telehealth for noncritical care. They implemented new safety protocols. And they offered Covid-19 tests and, once available, vaccinations.
Today, over half (55%) of Chicagoans have been fully vaccinated, according to the city’s Covid dashboard. Yet the pandemic has not affected all communities equally. It has had a disproportionate impact on people of color. Only 39% of Black residents and 48% of Latinx residents have been fully vaccinated, compared to 61% of white Chicagoans. Black and Latinx residents, respectively, account for 19% and 32% of confirmed positive cases—and 40% and 33% of Covid-19 deaths.
This tragic reality has laid bare what our grantees have long known: Low-income members of racial and ethnic minorities in Chicago experience worse health outcomes and greater difficulty getting healthcare.
More than ever, our health grantees are needed. They are exceptionally capable of providing high-quality healthcare to Chicago’s underserved communities.
And for close to two years, they have taken on the additional challenges of the pandemic. As their employees have been pushed to the limit and their financial resources have been stretched thin, they have relied on care teams, electronic medical records, and care coordination systems developed with the support of the Fry Foundation.
These extraordinary times have underlined not only our grantees’ essential role but also our efforts to support them. The Fry Foundation’s health program seeks to increase access to high-quality primary care and to reduce healthcare disparities for low-income Chicagoans. We do that by helping safety-net providers implement and refine medical-home models of care—our health program’s highest priority, accounting for 53% of our health funding.
Medical-home care is the most effective way to provide care, especially for low-income patients, because it considers a patient’s entire health needs and the connections among those needs and their treatments. While stand-alone clinical care focuses on the providers and the volume of care they provide, medical-home care centers on the patients.
During the pandemic, the other areas of our health program have proven just as critical. They include mental health (26% of our health funding), dental and vision services (7%), community outreach and prevention (6%), and policy advocacy (5%).
In addition, our grantees have benefited from the following city, state, and federal initiatives:
- In October 2020, the Mayor’s office, in conjunction with the Chicago Department of Public Health, announced a $9.3 million initiative to provide mental healthcare to residents in need.
- In January 2021, the City of Chicago launched a program to partner with community organizations, including several Fry Foundation grantees, in delivering vaccines to communities most affected by Covid-19, especially Black and Latinx residents.
- In April 2021, the Health Resources and Services Administration awarded over $6 billion to support pillars of the public health infrastructure. One pillar is community health centers—including Fry Foundation grantees that received about $113 million from this fund. They can use the funds for Covid-19 tests, vaccines, and treatments for vulnerable populations, as well as for healthcare for people at higher risk for Covid-19.
- In April 2021, the Illinois Health Care and Human Service Reform Act, championed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus, became law. It addresses racial health disparities and social determinants in Black and Latinx communities. And it supports priority areas that the Fry Foundation has been funding for years, such as improving access to high-quality primary care.