Bernard J. Tyson’s legacy flourishes as new impact fund drives his vision for social justice and equitable healthcare forward
- The American Heart Association launches the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund to address health inequities highlighted by the pandemic.
- Anchor investments from Lynne and Marc Benioff and the Elizabeth Elting Foundation Halo Fund (Elizabeth Elting and Michael Burlant), with generous support from WW, serve as catalyst for the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund.
Embargoed until 6 a.m. CT / 7 a.m. ET Thursday, June 18, 2020
DALLAS, June 18, 2020 — The American Heart Association (AHA), the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, launches the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund to invest in solutions designed to break down the social and economic barriers to health equity.
The Impact Fund honors the legacy of Bernard J. Tyson, the late chairman and chief executive officer of Kaiser Permanente, member of the American Heart Association’s board of directors and CEO Roundtable. The nationwide fund has a local investment focus and will support evidence-based, community-led solutions to create a world where an individual’s zip code does not dictate the health quality or length of one’s life.
Serving as a health care leader for more than 35 years, Tyson dedicated his life to addressing the health inequities that plague the U.S. health care system and disproportionately impact underserved communities. Tyson believed deeply in the mission of the American Heart Association to advance his passion and address the social determinants of health.
The Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund received instrumental investments from longtime patrons, Lynne and Marc Benioff and the Elizabeth Elting Foundation Halo Fund (Elizabeth Elting and Michael Burlant) as well as support from WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to fund social enterprises within local communities.
The fund is part of the broader Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being. His widow, Denise Bradley-Tyson, alongside the Association, formed the Bernard J. Tyson Fund for Equitable Health and Well-Being shortly after his death 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.
“Bernard was a cherished friend, tremendous leader and trusted advisor who was a champion of change, equity and well-being,” said Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association. “Equity has always been – and will remain – at the center of the work we do and we are so grateful for philanthropists Lynne and Marc Benioff and the Elizabeth Elting Foundation Halo Fund for their generous anchor support of the Bernard J. Tyson Impact fund to start projects in San Francisco, Oakland and New York to reduce the social and economic barriers to health in these communities. Thank you also to WW, formerly Weight Watchers, and countless others for supporting social issues that Bernard was so passionate about. We are honored to carry on Bernard’s legacy especially now as we navigate beyond these senseless acts of racial violence and evoke positive change in our communities.”
Long before the coronavirus pandemic, systemic challenges, which have been highlighted by recent events, impeded many individuals, specifically members of the Black 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, including potential risk for severe COVID-19 complications and racial violence.
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. About 80% of one’s health is impacted by social and economic factors, health behaviors and physical environments.
In the Bay Area, the Benioff’s generous $1 million gift will create a new platform based on the existing work championed by Tyson, facilitating system changes and advocating for health equity in San Francisco and Oakland, California. The fund will expand the Association’s work that is already embedded in the Bay Area at this critical time. The Benioff’s provided the first anchor investment launching the fund. Through their leadership, the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund will invest in local social entrepreneurs and non-profits that have proven solutions that enable under-resourced communities to access to healthcare, nutritious food, housing and COVID-19 testing.
Entrepreneur and social investor, 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 Halo Fund will launch the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund’s investment work in New York City. The funding 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.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you Lynne, Marc, Liz, Michael and WW for your support of my late 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?’ Your 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, Tyson’s widow. “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.”
Carrying on this legacy, the American Heart Association continues to advocate at the federal, state and community levels for policies that address social determinants 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 donate 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 Impact Fund
- CEO remembers Bernard Tyson for leaving health care 'better than he found it'
- Heart disease risk profiles differ widely among African Americans, blacks from the Caribbean and African immigrants
- New American Heart Association health care principles call for evidence-based approaches to eliminate inequities
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 on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.
For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173
Kim Haller: 214-706-4858; Kimberly.email@example.com
For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
 Social determinants of health. The World Health Organization. 2020. https://www.who.int/social_determinants/sdh_definition/en/
 United Way ALICE: The Consequences of Insufficient Income 2017 Report; ACC/AHA Guidance for Preventing Heart Disease, Stroke Released; 2019 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease 2019