Is Health Care Philanthropy for the Rich?

A new study published in the Journal of Business Ethics has found that corporate charitable foundations tend to direct healthcare funding to richer communities rather than those with the greatest health-care needs.

The study, titled “Putting the ‘Love of Humanity’ Back in Corporate Philanthropy: The Case of Health Grants by Corporate Foundations, was co-authored by Irene Henriques, Professor of Sustainability and Economics at Schulich; Muhammad Umar Boodoo, an Assistant Professor at Warwick Business School in the UK; and Bryan W. Husted, a Professor of Management at EGADE Business School in Mexico.

Headshot of Professor Irene Henriques
Professor Irene Henriques

The study looked at health grants made by US corporate foundations, as well as county-level health data. The research findings showed that corporate health grants are less likely to go to communities that have a lower proportion of medical service providers and insured citizens. As a result, corporate philanthropy tends to exacerbate health inequality by providing grants to wealthier counties with fewer health problems.

“In conducting this research, we wanted to find out whether corporate philanthropy is in fact reaching those with the greatest health-care needs,” says Henriques. “One would expect corporate philanthropy to provide for the poor and disadvantaged by addressing the root causes of these inequalities, not reinforce them. But what we discovered was that corporate health philanthropy tends to reinforce pre-existing health inequalities and even exacerbate them.”