Breaking community health barriers — with local entrepreneurs

 Third annual American Heart Association EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator activates innovative, local solutions for long-term health in under-resourced communities 

 Approximately 50 million people in the United States are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because they lack the most basic needs — healthy food, clean air and drinking water, quality education, employment and housing.1 One way the American Heart Association, the leading voluntary health organization devoted to a world of longer, healthier lives, and its leadership in resuscitation science and education, is committed to changing that picture is by funding entrepreneurs who are creating and implementing local solutions through the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator™.  

Beginning May 1, the American Heart Association is calling on entrepreneurs and innovators to submit business ideas tackling health disparities to the EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator. Now in its third year, the Accelerator provides a chance to receive MBA-style training and grants to break down barriers to health at the community level.  

 “We know that only 20% of a person’s health is determined by medical care,” said Keith B. Churchwell, M.D., volunteer chair of the American Heart Association’s Health Equity Task Force and senior vice president/executive director at the Heart and Vascular Services and Transplantation and Medicine Service, Yale-New Haven Health. “The vast majority is shaped by social and economic factors, health behaviors and housing, all of which are caused by complex, systemic barriers that can be best improved by collaborating with the communities themselves where they know firsthand what the real issues are.”  

 The EmPOWERED to Serve Business Accelerator is accepting submissions through June 28 at Entrepreneurs will be selected by early August, and training begins Aug 7.  

 Through a rigorous eight-week, online curriculum funded by the American Heart Association, select entrepreneurs gain real-life knowledge in market positioning, brand development, fundraising and other functions to enhance their business models and demonstrate the viability of their projects. 

A panel of judges will hear participants share their innovative programs using compelling, storytelling-styled methods on Oct. 17 at the EmPOWERED to Serve Summit. Grant recipients are responsible for executing initiatives that address socioeconomic health obstacles with tailored programs. In the past two years, 11 grantees have received a combined total of $150,000 and have demonstrated health impact at the local level, with some now expanding nationally.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach, as every community, whether it’s urban or rural, has different challenges,” said Churchwell. “That’s why the American Heart Association is investing in entrepreneurs working on local solutions that change behaviors and expand access to resources for the long term. Ultimately, our goal is for all people to live longer, healthier lives.” 

To learn about making a difference in your community, visit  

  1. United Way ALICE: The Consequences of Insufficient Income 2017 Report 


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