The American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, received the first instrumental investments from longtime patrons, the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, Elizabeth Elting and Michael Burlant (https://www.lizelting.com/foundation) and Lynne and Marc Benioff to launch the American Heart Association’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund. Seeking to create a world where an individual’s ZIP code does not dictate the health quality or length of one’s life, AHA’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund is a national fund with a hyperlocal investment focus, supporting evidence-based, community-led solutions that break down the social and economic barriers to health equity.
The contributions to the Impact Fund honor the legacy of Bernard J. Tyson, the late chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, member of the AHA board of directors and member of the American Heart Association CEO Roundtable in his life’s work: changing systems to support integrated and preventative healthcare that considers the whole person and benefits all people. The Elizabeth Elting Foundation’s funding will enable the AHA’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund to begin making investments into social enterprises in the New York City community.
Serving as a healthcare professional for over 35 years, Tyson dedicated his life to addressing the health inequities that plague the U.S. health care system and disproportionately impact underserved communities. A visionary leader, Tyson believed deeply in the mission of the AHA to advance his passion and rectify the social determinants of health.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), systemic challenges and racial injustices, which have been exacerbated by recent events impeded many individuals, specifically members of the African American and Hispanic communities, from living longer, healthier lives full of quality years at optimal health. These under-resourced populations continue to suffer from social and economic health disparities, as has been evidenced by the community’s disproportionately severe COVID-19 complications and senseless acts of racial violence.
“The passing of Bernard, a dear friend, tremendous leader and trusted advisor, still weighs heavy on the hearts and minds of our staff, volunteers and individuals he impacted while serving with the Association,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “Equity has always – and will remain – at the center of the work we do. We will continue to honor Bernard’s legacy and ensure the health and well-being of all. I’m grateful to Lynne, Marc, Liz and Michael for their generosity to sustain Bernard’s vision of a world free on social injustices and inequities in healthcare. Now more than ever Bernard’s passion for the Association must shine bright to evoke change in communities – and the investments from Lynne, Marc, Liz and Michael are making this possible.”
Entrepreneur and social investor, Elizabeth (Liz) Elting is a New York-based philanthropist and businesswoman, recognized for her entrepreneurship and focus on developing women business leaders. The Elizabeth Elting Foundation’s support will launch AHA’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund’s investment work in New York City. The Tyson Impact Fund fits perfectly within the Elizabeth Elting Foundation’s stated goals: “…of breaking down the barriers that hold back marginalized people and advancing true equality for all. With an eye toward that future, the Elizabeth Elting Foundation is committed to promoting progressive efforts to eradicate systemic barriers., promote public health and education, achieve workplace equality, and open the doors to economic independence for those society has far too often shut out.”
The Halo Fund will support local social entrepreneurs operating within communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and create solutions that drive economic resiliency, address food and housing insecurity, aim to close the achievement gap and improve educational performance within under-resourced communities.
“It’s always been my goal to help create social and physical environments that promote good health for all,” said Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation. “Our health can be determined in part by access to social and economic opportunities. This fund will invest in community driven solutions to overcome health disparities, mental health challenges and the social influencers of health to give all people their best opportunity for a long and healthy life.”
The Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund is part of the broader Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being. His wife, Denise Bradley-Tyson, alongside the Association, formed the Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being in November 2019 to celebrate his legacy and advance his conviction for health equity. The Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being supports lifesaving work in health equity, mental health and social justice to ignite rapid change by honoring humanitarian visionaries, investing in communities and providing new career pathways for under-resourced and emerging scientists.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you to Lynne, Marc, Liz and Michael for their support of my husband’s life work and passion through the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund. In times like these, we must continue to ask ourselves, ‘What would Bernard do?’ Their generosity reflects Bernard’s legacy as we continue to honor him and serve as agents of change for vulnerable populations that are in desperate need of affordable access to healthcare, mental health services, food and housing security and income equality,” said Denise Bradley-Tyson, wife of Bernard J. Tyson. “The racial injustice and barriers to equitable health care must be broken. Alongside the American Heart Association, we will champion Bernard’s pursuit of equity and ensure every individual lives a long, healthy life.”
Individuals in under-resourced communities have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, the number one killer of all Americans annually. ZIP codes should not determine an individual’s quality of life, however the life expectancy of people living just five miles apart can differ by as much as 20 years. About 50 million people in the U.S. are at higher risk for cardiovascular diseases because they lack the most basic needs, including access to healthy food, clean air, drinking water and housing. 80% of one’s health is impacted by social and economic factors, health behaviors and physical environments.
Carrying on this legacy, the American Heart Association continues to advocate at the federal, state and community levels for policies that address social influencers of health by ensuring that the health benefits of those policies extend to communities and populations most in need. To learn more or make an investment to the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund click here.
- American Heart Association Deeply Mourns the Loss of Bernard J. Tyson, Chairman & CEO Kaiser Permanente and Member of the American Heart Association Board of Directors
- Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being
- Bernard J. Tyson Social Impact Fund
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.