The Banner Health Foundation board of directors recently voted to award a collective $4.5 million to 14 programs and services across Banner Health’s medical centers in Arizona. The funds come from unrestricted charitable gifts to the Foundation and the interest earnings from the Foundation’s assets, excluding endowments. 

The funds are awarded through the annual Highest and Best Use Awards program, an internal program that invites Banner division leaders to submit funding proposals for a range of programs and services that enhance patient care, expand the reach of Banner’s services, and advance important health initiatives.

Proposals are vetted and ranked by Banner senior leaders, with the finalists presented to the Foundation’s 18-member, volunteer board of directors for approval. The number of proposals presented to the board depends on how much funding is available each year.

Under the leadership of past Foundation chairman Ken Van Winkle, the Highest and Best Use Awards program began in 2007 as an innovative way to distribute unrestricted gifts and interest earnings to the Banner programs most deserving of investment. Since inception, more than $37 million has been awarded through the program. 

While most gifts to the Banner Health Foundation are designated by donors for a specific purpose—a certain medical center, program, or research activities, as examples—unrestricted gifts allow the Foundation board to invest in Banner’s most promising and impactful programs, and to address our communities’ emerging health care needs over time.

“The Board members, in partnership with Banner’s 45,000 Arizona employees, are excited and pleased to be able to invest in making health care easier and life better for everyone in Arizona through these initiatives,” said Steve Moak, who will assume the Foundation board chairmanship in January.

This year’s Highest and Best Use Awards will support the following programs and initiatives:

Community Outreach Programs:

$900,000 will support the Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect (SCAN) program in the Valley and expand it to Tucson. Spanning nine campuses in the Valley, SCAN is a network of providers charged with identifying and caring for abused and neglected children who present for medical care in a Banner medical facility or emergency department. Through in-person and telephonic consultations available 24/7, front-line providers are educated on how to properly identify and address child abuse and neglect. 

$600,000 will support operation of the Banner Children’s Community Clinics, serving some 3,000 uninsured and underinsured pediatric patients each year with free primary care services via a mobile clinic and office locations in Mesa and Tolleson.

$256,000 will support the Dementia Care Partners pilot program for those caring for people with dementia. Services will include in-home and phone support, health coaching supervised by social workers, and assessment of mood, behavior and cognition of the patient while tracking the stress and burden level of caregivers.

$95,000 will provide life-saving emergency rescue inhalers and medical kits to public schools in Maricopa and Pima counties through a partnership with the Arizona Asthma Coalition.

$54,000 will allow the Banner Olive Branch Senior Center in Sun City to purchase a new refrigerated truck for its Food Delivery Program. The truck will join a fleet that picks up 1 million lbs. of product annually from 31 stores to provide meals to food-insecure senior citizens and to 21 nonprofits assisting the hungry.

$47,112 will support the Safety Town injury prevention program, an interactive, pop-up, 3D town on a mobile bus designed to simulate life-saving lessons for children, teens, parents and grandparents. Safety Town visits schools and events to offer education and hands-on activities related to drowning prevention, gun safety, poisoning prevention, sun protection, fire safety, distracted driving and anti-bullying. 

Emerging Health Needs:

$450,000 will provide early funding to develop the Center for Clinical Outcomes Research Analytics, or CORA, within Banner Health. Through implementation of two key technological advancements, Automation and Advanced Predictive Analytics, Banner can improve health outcomes for millions of Arizonans by preventing relapse, avoiding extensive hospitalization, and ensuring the fastest and most efficient use of resources through technological innovation.

$405,000 will support a pilot program at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix known as the Legerity Program, designed to prompt weight reduction in a health-positive, non-stigmatizing, affirming manner as a primary means to prevent progression of related diseases.

$250,000 will support two Arizona clinics at Diamond Children’s Medical Center in Tucson and Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa, specializing in Children’s Postinfectious Autoimmune Encephalopathy, or CPAE: a family of often misdiagnosed, acute-onset neuropsychiatric disorders affecting 25,000 to 40,000 Arizona children.

$144,000 will reconfigure space at Banner Thunderbird Medical Center to provide safe, compassionate, respectful and age-appropriate care for approximately 90 pediatric and adolescent behavioral health patients presenting each month in its Emergency Department, many of whom are in crisis and face long wait times for admission to a treatment center.

Some 60% of Arizona children have tooth decay, compared to the national average of 36%. $96,000 will support a one-year pilot program at the Family Medicine Center at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix to apply topical fluoride varnish to children age 5 and younger to reduce tooth decay rates and create significant cost savings in dental and hospital care.

Clinician Training, Education and Well-Being:

National studies show that 50% of physicians and 30% of nurses suffer from a psychological condition known as burnout, marked by emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, feelings of low achievement and decreased effectiveness—creating a public health crisis that stands to jeopardize patient care and the lives of our care providers. $1 million will support four separate mind-body wellness and resiliency programs across Banner, each designed to enhance the health and well-being of care providers.

$160,000 will train Emergency Department staff at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson to provide comprehensive medical services for sexual assault victims, including forensic processing, victim education and resources, and survivor care. Upon demonstration of feasibility, federal grant support to maintain this program will become available.

Training in end-of-life care is not typically part of standard medical education. $25,000 will purchase the Hospice and Palliative Care Essentials Library developed by Relias Learning, and cover the cost of training and certifying all Banner Hospice and Palliative Care clinicians by ELNEC: End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium.