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Stronger Together: Health Care Systems Investing in Early Care Education

Stronger Together: Health Care Systems Investing in Early Care Education

IFF is a Member of Nonprofit Connect. Their mission is to strengthen nonprofits and the communities they serve by providing leadership, capital, and real estate solutions. Learn more about their services here.
Grassroots health care service workers and professionals in clinics and neighborhoods across the country advocating for health equity have long known of the effects that community conditions have on the health and wellbeing of children and families. Many of these factors are known as social determinants of health, and CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions like us) have an opportunity to partner with health care systems to improve conditions and build stronger communities.

The World Health Organization defines social determinants of health as, “The nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.” When considering the social determinants of health, poor health outcomes cannot alone be addressed by simple inputs of better health care, upgraded scanners and procedures, or newer medicinal interventions. As noted in a study by Paula Braveman and Laura Gottlieb, there is evidence “pointing to socioeconomic factors such as income, wealth, and education as the fundamental causes of a wide range of health outcomes.”

One of the social determinants of health is early childhood development and education. The benefits of accessing high-quality early childhood education are many, including reduced educational gaps and improved adult health outcomes. Unfortunately, years of research and community engagement at IFF have shown that thousands of children in communities that have been directly impacted by systemic racism and disinvestment lack access to that essential foundation for growth and development, exacerbating health inequities across the country.
Our goal at IFF is to increase access to quality early childhood education by providing capital and resources to create safe and inspiring spaces. But we could not do this without our partners.

Health care systems have a long track record of investing in programs to improve access to quality health and support services for underserved communities. In recent years, several health care systems serving communities across the Midwest have partnered with and invested in CDFIs, including IFF, to address the space needs associated with providing services.

In Missouri, the Health Forward Foundation partnered with IFF to provide additional funding for the Stronger Nonprofits Initiative (SNI), which is funded by JP Morgan Chase and administered by IFF in partnership with BDO FMA. The program supports nonprofits led by people of color in navigating systemic barriers to accessing capital and real estate opportunities by acknowledging disparities in lending and providing resources and tools to increase capacity and build connections to networks. Several of the Kansas City cohort members are early childhood education providers, and the program positions them with the tools and knowledge to become more financially resilient, and, ultimately, to provide higher quality care.

When health care systems invest in childhood care and education, including providing resources for quality programs and capital to finance the development of facilities, it benefits children, families, and communities. Children have access to high-quality care and education that promotes their development, health, and wellbeing. Parents and families benefit from accessing affordable care, increasing their ability to earn income and spend it on other necessities that secure their health – including quality food and education. For communities, it means more jobs and inclusive economic growth. When health care systems collaborate and invest in early care and education, wellness rises, families are positioned to thrive, and communities grow and become stronger together.

For more information about IFF services in Missouri, connect with Stephen Westbrooks ( or LinkedIn), Executive Director for the Southern Region, or visit

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