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Commonwealth Fund: Wikis


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The Commonwealth Fund is a private foundation whose stated purpose is to promote a high performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency.



The Commonwealth Fund is a charitable foundation established in 1918 by Anna Harkness (wife of one of the original Standard Oil investors, Stephen Harkness). Charged with the mandate to "do something for the welfare of mankind," Ms. Harkness founded the organization with an initial endowment of $10 million dollars. Her son Edward Harkness served as its first president, and through additional gifts and bequests between 1918 and 1959, the Harkness family's total contribution to the Fund's endowment amounted to more than $53 million.

The Fund is one of the major philanthropic foundations in the United States today and one of the few established by a woman. Over the years, it has given support to medical schools and to the building of hospitals and clinics in rural areas. In New York City, the Commonwealth Fund was a major contributor to the building of Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center of the College of Physicians and Surgeons and Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University in 1922.


The Fund currently operates under nine program areas: Health Care Quality Improvement and Efficiency, The Future of Health Insurance, Patient-Centered Primary Care, State Innovations, Quality of Care for Underserved Populations, Child Development and Preventive Care, Quality of Care for Frail Elders, and the International Program in Health Policy and Practice.

In addition, the Fund administers a number of fellowships including the Commonwealth Fund/Harvard University Fellowship in Minority Health Policy, and three international fellowships: the Harkness Fellowships (launched in 1925 and previously known as The Commonwealth Fund Fellowship); the Packer Policy Fellowship, and the Ian Axford Fellowship. The international fellowships bring researchers and practitioners from Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom to study and conduct research in the United States. The Harkness Fellowship/CFF was until the 1990s available to scholars of all academic disciplines, and included many who went on to excel in science, the arts and business. Uniquely for academic fellowship, the two year fellowship in the US included a mandatory period of two months travel so that the fellows became better acquainted with the US. A directory of past fellows updated annually published and current and past fellows were invited to numerous social events. In the UK the Harkness Fellows assoiciation still meets although the emphasis of the organisation has shifted.

Current Leadership

The Fund is currently led by president Karen Davis, a nationally recognized economist, with an extensive background in public policy and research. Before joining the Fund, she served as chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, where she also held an appointment as professor of economics. She served as deputy assistant secretary for health policy in the Department of Health and Human Services from 1977–1980, and was the first woman to head a U.S. Public Health Service agency. Prior to her government career, Ms. Davis was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., a visiting lecturer at Harvard University, and an assistant professor of economics at Rice University. A native of Oklahoma, she received her Ph.D. in economics from Rice University.

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