HOUSTON, September 25, 2023 – In Houston, people who live south of downtown in the Sunnyside neighborhood can expect to live an average of 21 years less than those who live just nine miles away in the more affluent Bellaire community[1]. This life expectancy gap is nearly equivalent to the difference in life expectancy between low-income and high-income countries. The science tells us that physical conditions in which people live explain in part why some are healthier than others[2].

To sustainably remove the social and economic barriers preventing access to equitable health for everyone everywhere, the American Heart Association, devoted to a world of healthier lives for all, is opening its Social Impact Funds to entrepreneurs and organizations across Greater Houston for the first time. These Funds exist to accelerate access to capital for evidenced-based, sustainable, entrepreneurial solutions within communities that help people live longer, healthier lives. Local organizations actively working to break down social and economic barriers to health equity including economic empowerment, healthy food access, housing, recidivism, access to quality healthcare, transportation and educational opportunities are encouraged to apply for funding.

A $1.5 million contribution from the BNSF Railway Foundation is supporting this first-ever call for applications to the Association’s Social Impact Funds across Greater Houston. This multi-year financial support establishes the BNSF Railway Fund which will provide additional funding opportunities across Southeast Texas over the next three years.

“The programs enabled by the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds align with our purpose to improve the quality of life in communities,” said Zak Andersen, president of the BNSF Railway Foundation. “Through the BNSF Railway Fund, we are committed to consistently enhance our communities by supporting innovative solutions that are working to improve economic development and the health and well-being where our employees live, work and raise their families.”

Organizations across Southeast Texas, including Greater Houston and the Gulf Coast, are invited to submit formal expressions of interest to the American Heart Association before 5:00 p.m. CT on Friday, October 20, 2023. Applicants for the Social Impact Fund can be at any business stage and can be non-profit or for-profit social enterprises. A governance committee comprised of key American Heart Association volunteers and staff executives review all funding requests with an eye toward meeting three key criteria – 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.

A virtual “town hall” information session will be held from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. CT on Monday, September 25, 2023. Community members and American Heart Association staff will be present to discuss local challenges and opportunities related to ensuring access to equitable health across Houston. The team will collaborate to ensure available funds are focused on addressing the greatest local needs. Register here to join the online discussion.

“We realize that for many entrepreneurs and local startups, a lack of access to immediate and substantial funding are barriers to their growth and success,” said Heather Butscher, vice president of community impact for the American Heart Association in Houston. “This funding opportunity will give community-based social enterprises the ability to build sustainable solutions dedicated to improving the cardiovascular health and well-being for Houstonians.”

Since its launch in 2018 and initial community investments in 2019, the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds, including the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund, have supported more than 100 local social enterprises across the country. Learn more about the American Heart Association Social Impact Funds here.

Additional Resources

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.orgFacebook, X (formerly known as Twitter) or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.  


For Media Inquiries:

Katharine Perrow, 202-280-9210, katharine.perrow@heart.org

Dion Bart, 832-918-4001, dion.bart@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)
heart.org and stroke.org


[1] Episcopal Health Foundation – Understanding Houston (2021) with source data provided by the U.S. Small-Area Life Expectancy Estimates Project (USALEEP) Neighborhood Life Expectancy Project (2018)

[2] Magnan S. Social Determinants of Health 201 for Health Care: Plan, Do, Study, Act. NAM Perspect. 2021.