American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds aim to improve health disparities in under-resourced communities
Where you live should not determine how long you live, yet research indicates that Americans continue to suffer and die needlessly . The American Heart Association and like-minded donors are taking bold actions to combat barriers preventing access to equitable health for all. Through the Association’s Social Impact Funds – as well as complementary named funds including the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund and the Elizabeth Elting Fund – donors have the opportunity to invest in local entrepreneurs and organizations that are breaking down the social and economic barriers to health equity.
In New York, the Social Impact Fund work is supported by a $5 million commitment by Liz Elting, Michael Burlant, and the Elizabeth Elting Foundation. The newly named Social Impact Fund will focus on data driven strategies to engage women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color as a part of the overall approach to transform the social determinants of health.
About 50 million people in the U.S. are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because they lack the most basic necessities. These factors contribute to life quality and expectancy. “When people face housing instability and lack access to quality education, clean air and water their health suffers,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “Life expectancy of two people living just a few miles apart can differ by 20 years due to these social determinants of health and the American Heart Association Social Impact Funds seek to address and solve these health disparities so everyone everywhere has the opportunity to live a full and healthy life.”
Further expanding the impact of their initial philanthropic contributions to the Association’s Social Impact Funds, five dedicated donors – Liz Elting and the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, Oscar and Cathy Munoz, Kaiser Permanente, James and Donna Sublett Family Foundation, and the Helen and Will Webster Foundation – recently made additional contributions increasing the total nationwide investment of the funds to $32 million. These contributions help provide financial grants and low-interest loans for evidence-based, community-driven work in targeted communities nationwide. Currently, the funds are contributing to projects addressing critical issues including access to health and health care, food security and economic resiliency and poverty reduction in New York City; along the east and west coasts of Florida; in Chicago; and the San Francisco Bay Area.
“Breaking down systemic barriers and building bridges toward a path of true equality, is vital to the fight for health equity,” said Liz Elting, founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation. “Entrepreneurs, small businesses, and grassroots organizations are doing the critical work to tackle economic and social barriers to health within their communities, and I am honored to stand with them alongside the American Heart Association. Social entrepreneurs and community changemakers are paving the way for a brighter future for all – it’s up to us as leaders to step up and support their efforts.”
These donors share in the mission of the American Heart Association and the commitment to its 2024 Impact Goal that every person deserves the opportunity for a full, healthy life. The Association strives to advance overall health and well-being for everyone everywhere, through the support of innovative solutions, such as its Social Impact Funds. Understanding that health does not begin at the doctor’s office, these funds provide nimble and reactive opportunities to meet entrepreneurs in communities where they are and take a bottom-up approach to finding health forward solutions. The resources provided by the American Heart Association Social Impact Funds can help social entrepreneurs scale their businesses quickly to have a positive impact on the community.
“The fund has provided us the support to grow our business,” said Liz Abunaw, owner and operator of Forty Acres Fresh Market, in Chicago, a Social Impact Fund investee. “You can’t imagine just how big an impact that is for the community. I don’t have the words, but it’s transformational.”
The Social Impact Funds invite social entrepreneurs with solutions to health access issues such as healthy food availability, housing, recidivism, access to quality healthcare, transportation, and educational opportunities to apply for funding opportunities to support their important local work. Applicants can be at any business stage and can be non-profit or for-profit social entrepreneurs. A governance committee comprised of American Heart Association volunteers and executives review all investment recommendations looking for three key things – demonstrated ability to drive change in under-resourced communities, an organic connection to the community itself and an ability to scale for maximum health impact.
Since its launch in 2018 and initial community investments in 2019, the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds have now invested in a total of 98 local social enterprises in 16 cities across the country. Learn more about the American Heart Association Social Impact Funds here.