Otho S.A. Sprague Memorial Institute was incorporated in June 1910 to implement the bequest of one of Chicago’s leading
businessmen. Since its first Board Meeting in 1911, it has stayed true to its founder’s intent, provided a cost-effective
model of philanthropic management while at the same time exemplifying how focused, mid-sized foundations can make a difference.
Sprague was active in a variety of civic initiatives, including the famed Burnham Plan of 1909 which melded concepts of the
city beautiful movement with concerns for health, education and civil society into a template that is equally valid a century
later. Because of his own health problems, Otho Sprague understood the need for better treatment, practitioner training and
research. He recognized that not all existing healthcare and health education institutions were equal and set his philanthropy
on a bold course to improve conditions. By creating one of the nation’s earliest foundations, he was a pioneer in re-distributing
personal wealth, as well as a visionary investor in medical research and wellness promotion.
early program of research focused on cancer, the effects of chemotherapy on tuberculosis, industrial diseases and the metabolism
of carbohydrates affecting diabetes. Early researchers pioneered the use of insulin to control diabetes, performed lung surgeries
to stem the effect of cigarettes on lung cancer, and studied environmental factors, like coal dust, for their impact on health.
In 1913, mental diseases – specifically chemical treatments of dementia praecox (schizophrenia) and allied conditions
were added to the research program.
By 1915, The Institute supported a staff of 20. The scientific staff and their
families were provided with benefits and pensions, in addition to challenging research opportunities. Institute records are
full of publication titles, successful and failed research projects and anecdotes about the program. Among those highlighted
from the early years were:
- Dr. Rollin T. Woodyatt became an international expert on diabetes and was actively
involved in the trials of insulin.
- Maud Slye, an Institute researcher at the University of Chicago was hailed for
her 38 years of work in breeding mice used in liver tumor and cancer research. She autopsied 150,000 mice during her career!
- Sprague Investigators, Drs. George and Gladys Dick began studying treatments for polio. During their effort, they
discovered the cause of scarlet fever, a scourge of their time.
- Dr. Henry Helmholz became a renowned pediatrician
and founded the Pediatric Section at the Mayo Clinic.
- Dr. Evarts Graham was among the first to note the relationship
of lung cancer to cigarettes.
- Dr. Henry Corper became the area’s foremost investigator of tuberculosis, a disease
that he contracted, but continued to research.
For more than a century, The Institute's self-perpetuating volunteer
Board always has included the City’s health and civic leaders whose fiscal prudence and programmatic vision have maintained
it as a philanthropy attuned to current needs, while staying true to the founder’s intent ...investigation of the
causes of disease and the prevention and relief of human suffering in the City of Chicago.
With assets of approximately
$38 million, the foundation makes grants of about $1.3 million annually. There is no office, only a post office box. There
is no staff, only a part time consulting Executive Director. There is no check book - grants are paid directly from assets
under management by two outside advisors. With low overhead, the foundation’s resources are applied to grantmaking initiatives.
The pro-active grant program seeks to identify issues that are under funded and can benefit from interdisciplinary approaches.
In 1995, The Institute created the Chicago Asthma Initiative, funding a diverse group of researchers, providers,
community and patient initiatives to highlight the growing health problem, collect data, apply innovative solutions and
share outcomes. Since then, grantees have networked, tracked problems and progress, trained and re-trained providers,
and empowered patients to better manage their disease.
In 2002, The Institute re-focused its grantmaking energies on
obesity prevention. It created CLOCC, The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children. Based at Ann and Robert
Lurie Children's Hospital, this network includes more than 3,000 individual and organizational representatives dedicated to
addressing this problem. CLOCC has become a globally recognized model. Its evidence based approach has resulted
in numerous legislative and public policy changes; generated new clinical best practices; and empowered communities and families
to address the epidemic in culturally appropriate ways. Longitudinal research shows obesity rates in pre-kindergarteners
has been reduced by 2 percentage points due to CLOCC's efforts.
The Institute's newest initiatives include:
The Oral Health Forum (OHF) links health professionals, government, nonprofit, corporate and community
representatives to improve oral health programs and services for all Chicago residents through education, assessment,
policy/program development and collaboration. A Case Management pilot will help children with significant oral
disease find the clinical help they require.
Smart Health Chicago provides HealthNavigators
trained to assist individuals in using their electronic medical records and accessing culturally and linguistically appropriate
health content on the web.
Chicago Health Atlas aggregates municipal, state and federal data along with information
from Chicago-area hospitals and nonprofits on useful open-source maps that easily explain health and wellness patterns in
Chicago's 77 community areas. www.chicagohealthatlas.org.
A pilot with the Northwestern Memorial Hospital
Follow-Up Clinic is designing a more effective way to diagnose those with behavioral health issues, stabilize them and place
them in a community-based health home while supporting the healthcare team in those clinics..
An enabling grant to the
Cook County Health Foundation to create the Community Triage Center on Chicago's southside. The new program will provide care
and an alternative to incarceration for justice involved individuals in collaboration with the community, the police, the
courts and the healthcare system.
The Chicago Hospital Collaborative brings together 26 hospitals to share perspectives
identified in their individual Community Health Needs Assessments and translate those findings into action plans to
improve the health of the neighborhoods they serve. The effort is coordinated by Health and Disability Advocates and the Chicago
Department of Public Health.
Additional information about The Institute's history and programs can be obtained
by clicking on the Link at the top of this page.