Centura grant program aims to advance social justice, health equity

August 15, 2022


Through its Health Equity & Advancement Fund, Centura Health aims to promote social justice, with a focus on health equity in its communities. In its first flight of grants last fall, it gave a total of $1 million to 19 community-based organizations that work directly with vulnerable populations. This fall, the fund will distribute $5 million more to 61 organizations.

Recipients of the funds are primarily nonprofit community organizations based in or extending services into Colorado or Western Kansas, the states where the 19-hospital Centura system operates. Centura functions under a joint operating agreement between CommonSpirit Health and AdventHealth.


Centura President and Chief Executive Peter D. Banko says the grants are for groups already working effectively to address inequities so that they can expand their work and attract additional partners and funders.

Centura imperative
The grant program is part of a broader effort begun in 2018 when Centura set up a diversity and inclusion advisory council to work on social justice initiatives at the system. When the May 2020 police killing of George Floyd stoked concerns about systemic racism, many associates expressed that they wanted Centura to do more to address inequity, says Banko.

The Centura board responded with a social justice framework that confirms the system's commitment to diversity and inclusion and lays out the system's broad goals and philosophy in social justice work.

Centura's five focus areas are: recognizing and supporting employees, educating and developing them, recruiting and retaining staff, addressing health disparities and making a positive impact in the community. The Health Equity & Advancement Fund program most directly falls under the community impact focus area.

"We view diversity, equity and inclusion work as a marathon, not a sprint — this is a long-term commitment for us," Banko says.

Centura established diversity and inclusion councils at each of its hospitals and those facilities are represented on the system-level council. The system in November 2020 promoted a Centura physician, Dr. Oswaldo Grenardo, to be its first senior vice president and chief diversity and inclusion officer, to shepherd related efforts.

Work now underway includes initiatives to increase the diversity of boards at the system and local levels, and to celebrate diversity through events around the system. Additionally, Centura is helping clinicians improve care quality by attacking health disparities. Centura clinicians in family medicine and maternal and child health are among those doing focused work addressing disparities.

Community members take part in a health services and screenings day at the Center for African American Health in Denver. The center, which works to advance health equity, is a recipient of Centura Health grants.

Centura also has increased its advocacy efforts around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Mission alignment
To select grantees during the 2021 funding round, Centura used the results of community health needs assessments to identify the most pressing unmet health care needs in its catchment areas. It solicited input of all its local diversity and inclusion councils.

The system-level diversity and inclusion advisory council and a review committee chose grantees whose programs had the potential to make rapid headway and whose missions and values align with Centura's. Employees representing a variety of departments, racial and ethnic backgrounds and work positions staff the review committee.

Grants awarded in fall 2021 ranged from $25,000 to nearly $87,000 and run through this month. Those awarded for fall 2022 range from $25,000 to $148,192.

First-round grants
One 2021-2022 grantee is using social media, radio, podcasts and workshops to educate people of color about how to address their chronic health concerns. Multiple grantees provide health and social services to immigrants and refugees. A primary care clinic is using its grant to bolster its services for people with long-term physical disabilities. Another grant recipient is using its grant to facilitate behavioral health care for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersexual or asexual.

Other grants support programs for mothers in recovery from substance dependence and for low-income veterans.

Banko says Jesus challenged people to go to where suffering people were to address their needs and that is what Centura is doing — this includes going to where people are suffering in its communities because of racism or race-based health inequities.

Addressing systemic problems
Deidre Johnson is chief executive and executive director of the Center for African American Health in Denver. That center is using the $50,000 it received in fall 2021 from the Health Equity & Advancement Fund to offer its clients help navigating metro-Denver's health and social service landscape. It also is on the list of recipients of grants going out this fall.


The Center for African American Health has its roots in a 1997 program to unite Black churches in addressing their members' social service needs.

Today, the organization provides community members with educational programming and warm handoffs to local health and social services providers. Johnson says navigation help is often crucial to people of color being able to successfully access the web of service providers in Denver and to establish trust in a system that has failed to provide equal access and care to the Black community in the past.

"The work we are doing is often not easy, but it's critical," Johnson says.

Centura's social justice framework

The Social Justice Framework that Centura Health introduced in 2020 says in part:

We Aim to:

  • Be intentional and strategic
  • Think and act holistically
  • Change unjust structures/systems
  • Obtain meaningful results

Core Statements:

  • All people are made in the image of God and are children of God
  • So, all people possess an equal and inalienable worth, and belong to a single, interconnected human family
  • We look at reality through the eyes of those who have been impacted by oppression and injustice
  • We join together in community
  • We care for and nurture all creation as well as actively participate in our community


Grant recipients

Health Equity & Advancement Fund grants that will begin in the fall are going to:

Nineteen organization dedicated to food security:

  • Brother Jeff's Cultural Center
  • Coal Creek Meals on Wheels
  • Community Food Share
  • Finney County CH Coalition
  • Solid Rock Community Development Corporation
  • Cultivate-Boulder
  • Focus Points Family Resource Center
  • Hunger Free Colorado
  • Manna- the Durango Soup Kitchen
  • Nourish Colorado/ LiveWell Colorado
  • Project Angel Heart
  • VIVE Wellness-Food Security and Mental Health
  • Project Protect Food Systems Workers
  • RISE Colorado
  • Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance
  • Sun Valley Kitchen Community Center
  • Tri-Lakes Cares
  • Urban Symbiosis
  • Jeffco Action Center, Inc./The Action Center

Twenty-two organizations dedicated to mental health:

  • Center for African American Health
  • Cleo Parker Robinson Dance
  • Homeward Pikes Peak
  • Rose Andom Center
  • Side By Side
  • Veterans Community Project
  • Advocates for Victims of Assault
  • Break the Silence
  • Community Compassion Outreach
  • Embark Peer Coach Academy
  • La Raza Services-Mental Health
  • LinkAGES Colorado
  • Mountain Resource Center
  • Muslim Youth for Positive Impact
  • Therapist of Color Collaborative
  • Wild Plum Center for Young Children and Families
  • Latina Safehouse-Chairez-Moreno
  • Face It TOGETHER, Inc
  • Friends of Broomfield
  • Safe Shelter of St Vrain Valley
  • Domestic Violence Initiative; DBA The Initiative
  • Para Ti Mujer

Twenty organizations dedicated to social justice and health equity work:

  • Catholic Charities of Central Colorado
  • Chanda Plan Foundation
  • Heart Mind Haven: Heart Mind Connect
  • International Rescue Committee
  • Posada
  • Project Worthmore
  • Second Chance Through Faith
  • The PLACE
  • Colorado Changemakers Collective
  • La Raza Services
  • Community Health Partnership
  • Mercy Housing Mountain Plains
  • Vuela for Health
  • Treeline Pass
  • Lil Friends
  • Southwestern Colorado Area Health Education Center
  • Lifespan Local
  • Southern Colorado Community Action Agency
  • The Justice Center- Pikes Peak Justice and Pro Bono Center
  • South Metro Community Foundation


Copyright © 2022 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.

Copyright © 2022 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.