LOS ANGELES, Sept. 4, 2023 — Food insecurity. Economic inequity. Lack of access to health care. These are some of the health disparity drivers that the Helen and Will Webster Foundation is helping to change with its $6 million gift to the American Heart Association’s Los Angeles Social Impact Fund.
According to the National Academy of Medicine, about 80% of a person’s health is determined by social and economic factors, including race, socio-economic status and geographic location.
The Los Angeles Social Impact Fund, which was recently renamed the Helen and Will Webster Fund in honor of the Webster family’s generous commitment, invests in local organizations and social enterprises that sustainably address issues that affect a person’s health and well-being.
“I want to be a part of the solution. If we can eliminate or even limit some of those problems, it would have a huge impact on health equity and outcomes for generations,” said Rich Webster, co-president and board member, Helen and Will Webster Foundation. “You have to treat it like a venture fund, it’s not just starting an initiative in a city, it’s getting them to be self-sustaining. It’s all about sustainable change, and the American Heart Association has the programs and the personnel on the ground to see the problems from all angles and make an effective difference in health equity. It’s a blessing to be able to do this, and it’s incredibly fulfilling to see the results of this work.”
Four Los Angeles-based organizations have received funding and the results to date include:
- Nearly 4,000 people benefiting from services that address socioeconomic health risks
- A combined increased revenue of $6.4 million, a 14X return on investment
One of the early funding recipients, Butterflly Health, is a trauma-informed mental health app developed by people of color to break down stigma and increase access for populations that have been historically excluded from existing mental health solutions. The investment has, among other things, helped the company add 16 mental health coaches and grow the number of people it serves.
The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program (FFRP) creates pathways for individuals reentering society to find permanent employment in wildland firefighting and fire prevention. With support from the American Heart Association grant, FFRP trained an additional 64 people, placed 70 individuals in firefighting jobs, deepened its recruitment efforts in California’s conservation camps and expanded the program across California.
Another funding recipient, Prosperity Market, is a Black-owned mobile market and food truck that supports Black businesses, including farmers, food producers and chefs. Over the past year, the business has seen notable growth in online market sales as well as food access points and vendors. It has provided healthy food access to more than 3,000 individuals to date.
The Knowledge House (TKH) received a grant to expand its work of providing low-income communities with technical and soft skills to launch careers in technology. In addition to boosting recruitment, the organization has grown its hiring partners to include Microsoft, Snapchat and Bloomberg and trained 34 unemployed and underemployed people for living wage jobs that could potentially uplift their families and break the cycle of generational poverty.
“For every person to enjoy a full and healthy life, it is imperative to break the cycle of inequity that impacts quality of life,” said Richard J. Shemin, MD, Board President of the American Heart Association Los Angeles and Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, David Geffen School of Medicine. “Because of the generosity of committed donors like The Helen and Will Webster Foundation, we are shifting the health equity paradigm in Los Angeles by investing in the work of local changemakers to address the needs of their communities.”
Recipients for the second funding cycle include:
- 9 Dots, a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring all K-6 students have the opportunity to engage in a transformative computer science education
- Bento, a patient engagement platform designed to reduce food insecurity, improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations and support local restaurants and grocery stores
- FreeWorld, a tech-enabled nonprofit that aims to end generational poverty and recidivism by accelerating economic mobility for returning citizens
- SUMA Wealth, a Latina-led wealth-building platform devoted to increasing prosperity, economic opportunity and financial inclusion for young Latinos and their families
Learn more about the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund.
About the American Heart Association
The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us in Los Angeles on heart.org/southerncalifornia, Facebook, Instagram and X or (213) 291-7000.
For Media Inquiries:
Kristine Kelly, Kristine.Kelly@heart.org