Shifting the Health Inequity Paradigm
In 2018, the American Heart Association launched its first impact fund to support community-based solutions that reduce social and economic barriers to health equity. The AHA’s impact investment strategy complements our lifesaving work of nearly 100 years by addressing nonmedical, social and economic barriers that cause many people to develop heart disease and have shorter, unhealthier lives.
The AHA’s Impact Investment Group is expanding the pool of changemakers by supporting initiatives developed within communities. Funds are invested in evidence-based, sustainable solutions led by local nonprofits and small businesses across diverse markets and issues.
The focus is on scaling innovative, community-led, evidence-based solutions.
The Social Impact Fund
The American Heart Association is investing in local entrepreneurs and organizations that are breaking down the social and economic barriers to health equity.
The Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund
A national fund with a local investment focus supporting and investing in evidence-based, locally led solutions that contribute to equity in health care.
The American Heart Association has created social impact funds that reimagine the approach to community transformation to combat social determinants of health through three key impact lenses focused on results.
By their nature, social determinants of health and their roots in structural legacy systems are interrelated. For example, transportation is often a barrier to accessing health services, and at the same time transportation solutions can impact climate and environmental health.
To clearly address the priority investment categories, the following three areas will shape these targeted efforts, acknowledging that many solutions will make an impact across the outlined topics.
Access to affordable, accessible, culturally appropriate quality health and health care is a fundamental value. In most cases, factors outside the traditional health care system are barriers to a healthy life. The funds focus on overcoming or eliminating these challenges. Investments in access to health care complement our other initiatives, including our advocacy and portfolio work addressing health and health systems as well as synergy with the other SDOH categories.
Examples of access to health and health care social enterprises include but are not limited to those focused on:
Innovation and Technology
Health tech, pharm tech, mental health care tech, social/emotional well-being tech and innovation makers
Advancing technologies offer new and scalable solutions, and if designed to address barriers in historically under-resourced communities, can reframe access to health.
Service and Transportation Platforms
Companies that improve access and knowledge for nonemergency health care, platforms removing language barriers, nonemergency transportation solutions, racially concordant perinatal and mental health care and employment/training opportunities within the health services industries
Some solutions may be variations of traditional services, such as last-mile transportation or community health workers. Others may create community health ambassadors who provide trusted guidance and navigation. And some may focus on loneliness and connection.
Food security encompasses the full food ecosystem from agriculture to food waste management. Both for-profit and non-profit SMEs in the agribusiness vertical/value chain can lead to better access to affordable, healthy and environmentally sustainable foods.
Examples of food security social enterprises include but are not limited to those focused on:
- Sustainable rural farming
- Urban farming and farming cooperatives
- Last-mile delivery (B2B and B2C)
- Innovative logistics
- Aquaculture/blue economy
- Healthy food retail
- Institutional meal providers
- Food retailers
- Increased healthy food purchasing power
- Food hubs
- Food waste management
- Mobile markets
Fortunately, significant overlap exists between food security and other SDOH categories, including food industry fair and living wage practices, climate-friendly growing and transportation practices and health care systems food services solutions. The funds will complement other advocacy and portfolio efforts focused on food systems.
Promoting economic stability through expanded educational opportunities, employment programs, banking practices and affordable housing is critical to achieving positive health outcomes.
Examples of economic resiliency and poverty reduction social enterprises include but are not limited to those focused on:
- Vocational training
- Recidivism programs
- Employment programs
- Anti-usury financial services
- Early education
- Affordable housing
- Eviction prevention
- Broadband/internet access
- Reducing the education achievement gap
- Violence prevention
As noted in other categories, opportunities for results across multiple initiatives are significant. Training focused on health sector services or food industry wage practices can benefit economic resiliency and health care access/food security. Our advocacy and portfolio efforts also address many of these issues.
Driving Lasting Impact
The choices people make about their health, or the health of their loved ones, are often based on available options. Solutions that increase access to healthy food, places to be active, clean air, safe water and other essential benefits—especially in areas with the greatest need—can help dismantle systemic barriers and move the United States toward health equity.
By adopting an investment approach that overcomes the many systemic challenges within the health funding sector and expands the pool of local solutions, the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds will spark the growth of scalable, evidence-based solutions to the social determinants of health.