The clock was ticking for a boy named Cinch from the moment he was born. Diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy at birth, his prognosis was paralysis within months. But you’d never know it from checking in on him now. You’ll find the central Utah toddler helping his dad with the cows before running off to play—all thanks to a groundbreaking gene replacement therapy.
This type of life-changing care, delivered far from the country’s largest urban centers, is only possible when true partnerships are forged between hospitals and the local donor base eager to provide financial support. Healthcare leaders must harness the power of partnerships—and the fuel of philanthropy—in order to meet the rising needs of our patients.
In November, community leaders and Intermountain Healthcare publicly unveiled Primary Promise, a bold initiative to create a model health system for children. The campaign’s objectives include strengthening the existing fetal and neonatal intensive care centers at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City; extending access to care across the Intermountain West through new clinics, telehealth and at-home services; and addressing emerging health needs through expanded mental and behavioral health services. With a minimum of $600 million needed to bring this vision to life, Primary Promise represents the most significant investment in the health and wellness of children ever undertaken in Utah and the region.
Even prior to the campaign’s launch, $464 million had already been secured in a partnership among civic leaders, community philanthropists and our hospital, which serves children and families in a seven-state region throughout the Intermountain West.
The initiative comes at a time when healthcare faces major challenges. Pandemic burnout fueled an exodus of hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers in 2021. National staffing shortages are colliding with this fall’s “tridemic” of influenza, RSV and COVID-19—a perfect storm of respiratory illnesses driving hospital admissions.
We recently passed the one-year anniversary of major pediatric health associations declaring a national state of emergency in children’s mental health. Hospitals continue to treat more kids with more complex needs. And despite strong research spotlighting the critical role that social determinants of health play in health outcomes, programs addressing education, employment and physical environments are beyond the scope of what payer reimbursements will finance.
Philanthropy can help fill the gaps, and also assist in funding upstream preventive health initiatives by creating new community programs or partnering with existing ones. As health leaders, it’s our duty to ensure that all patients have access to the best care we can provide, no matter their background or life circumstances.