Resources meet volunteers: Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation merge

Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, at a Dec. 3 luncheon announcing a merger with the Friedell Committee.

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation have joined together and will now function as one organization, a change that takes effect immediately.

In announcing the merger, the groups “emphasized the organizations’ congruent missions and committed volunteers, and the value of speaking with a single, amplified voice to influence community and statewide health policy change,” says the release.

The groups announced the union at a Dec. 3 luncheon to honor the late Dr. Gil Friedell, who founded the committee and was well-known for his mantra: “If the problem is in the community, the solution is in the community.”

J.D. Miller, chairman of the Friedell Committee, citing the quote, said this philosophy was something they all agreed on.

“One of the things that is important to all of us is to be engaged in our communities . . . I think we all believe that and that we all understand that whatever we want to do in health and advocacy, it must be with community engagement,” Miller said.

Bonnie Hackbarth, spokeswoman for the foundation, said after the luncheon that many committee members had already joined the foundation’s Community Advisory Council. Its members advise the foundation’s overall policy and strategic direction, and serve as liaisons to Kentucky communities.

“Potentially tripling the size of our council and adding Friedell Committee members’ wealth of knowledge and expertise means reaching far deeper into Kentucky communities,” LeChrista Finn, incoming chair of the advisory council, said in the release. She added that the new members will also help the foundation “better understand both the local issues and local solutions.”

“This is one of the most engaged, dedicated groups of health advocates in our state,” Miller said.

Richard Heine, executive director of the Friedell Committee, said after the luncheon that he was “very pleased” with the merger.

“I think that what we bring is a lot of community presence and I think they are going to benefit particularly in the council to have our people, community level people,” he said. “And we’ve done a lot of thinking about what needs to happen in terms of health care in the future, so I think we bring a lot of that with us when we come.”

Asked what the foundation offered the committee, Heine said funding and resources.

The news release said the legacy of the Friedell Committee, especially in the areas of diabetes and obesity prevention, will continue through the foundation.

“The prevention of obesity and diabetes is among the work included in the foundation’s 2019-2020 strategic plan, which we just approved,” Mark Carter, chair of the foundation’s board of directors, said in the release. “Our hope is to leverage Friedell Committee members’ expertise in this area to better bring coordinated community-wide solutions to this increasingly serious societal health issue.”

Miller said Friedell was aware of the potential merger before his death on Sept. 23.

“He was very much in support of joining together with the foundation, which was very important to us,” Miller said. “We realized that as we joined, we could actually increase the impact of both organizations. And more than increasing the impact, we could learn from each other.”

Jane Chiles, who was chair of the Friedell Committee for several years and is now chair of Kentucky One Health, said Friedell’s legacy had come full circle, noting that he had been part of the vision for the foundation when it was “just a twinkle in the eye.”

“The circle is complete,” she said.

Foundation President and CEO Ben Chandler said, “We are so excited about this unification. It is something that’s come full circle and I hope Dr. Friedell would be pleased. We want to continue making progress together and I think we can really, really attain great things.”

Chandler announced that the Foundation’s Healthy Kentucky Policy Champion of the Year award has been renamed the Gil Friedell Health Policy Champion award.

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