Utah Social Entrepreneurs Get Funds to Fight Health, Racial Inequity

American Heart Association

In Utah, racial and ethnic health disparities have increased over the past 20 years, specifically in chronic diseases[1]. The state's growing racial and ethnic communities often bear a disproportionate burden of disease and poor health outcomes. This limits the ability of individuals, families, and communities to reach their highest health potential, impacting well-being, longevity and economic and social mobility[2].

To sustainably address and improve social determinants of health, the American Heart Association, devoted to a world of healthier lives for all, has invested $400,000 in two Utah-based community-led solutions as part of the Association's first cycle of Social Impact Fund funding in the state.

"Where you live should not dictate how long you live. Through the American Heart Association's Social Impact Fund, local social enterprises will be able to make a meaningful, measurable impact on the health of Utahns," said Lavinia Sasaki, executive director for the American Heart Association in Utah.

Social Impact Fund enterprises can be non-profit or for-profit social entrepreneurs at any business stage. A governance committee comprised of American Heart Association volunteers and executives review all investment recommendations looking for three key things - 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.

The first round of Social Impact Fund recipients for Utah are:

  • (Provo, Utah) is a digital reading platform built to improve English Language Arts (ELA) instruction to support reading engagement, student achievement and self-directed learning for adolescent learners. Literal aims to close the achievement gap for digitally based learners throughout school districts by improving reading levels for at-risk students in the Wasatch Front.
  • (Salt Lake City) works to minimize disparities for Hispanic/Latinos accessing behavioral health services. The peer-run organization educates, empowers and eases access to mental health resources and services with competent responsiveness to cultural, socio-economic and linguistics characteristics. This funding will allow for expansion along more rural areas throughout Wasatch and Grand Counties.

The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation and Intermountain Healthcare are founding funders of the Social Impact Fund in Utah.

"By supporting organizations who uniquely understand the communities they serve, we can work in tandem to ensure health equity for Utahns," said Don Stirling, executive director, the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation. "The Social Impact Fund provides critical funding for early stage businesses who often face substantial financial barriers to their success and growth. This funding allows these entrepreneurs to scale their businesses quickly to have a positive impact within our communities."

Social determinants of health influence a person's cardiovascular health factors and behaviors.

"Utah strives to be the healthiest state in the nation, and we know our health disparities must be addressed," said Mikelle Moore, longtime supporter of the American Heart Association and senior vice president and chief community health officer, Intermountain Healthcare in Utah. "A comprehensive and culturally responsive approach to health and health care, education, housing and community environments including access to these services for all Utahns goes a long way to support heart and brain health. The community-led approach through the Social Impact Fund unite all of us around our shared purpose of equitable health."

Since its launch in 2018 and initial community investments in 2019, the American Heart Association's Social Impact Funds have invested in nearly 100 local social enterprises in 16 cities across the country. Learn more about the American Heart Association Social Impact Funds here.

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