Expanding access to care through $11 million in Empowering Health grants

It can be difficult to maintain good health if you struggle with accessing nutritious food, anxiety and depression or social isolation. In fact, approximately 80% of what influences a person’s health relates to these nonmedical issues, or what’s commonly referred to as social determinants of health.

The lingering COVID-19 pandemic has caused additional social and economic challenges, which continue to exacerbate health disparities in many communities. More than a third of members1 screened by UnitedHealthcare for social-related needs experience at least one social determinant of health.

To help communities expand access to care and address these challenges, UnitedHealthcare is donating $11 million in grants through its Empowering Health program across 11 states to help uninsured individuals and underserved communities. The states include California, Georgia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, New York, Virginia and Washington. These grants will help those struggling with food insecurity, social isolation, behavioral health issues, health literacy efforts and more. 

The grants include:

  • $300,000 to Mama’s Kitchen in San Diego County, California to expand the home-delivered meal service program, which provides medically tailored meals for low-income individuals recently discharged from the hospital with a primary diagnosis of HIV, cancer, congestive heart failure or type 2 diabetes.
  • $250,000 to Boys and Girls Clubs in Benton Harbor, Michigan to help expand the Triple Play program which addresses physical activity, good nutrition and healthy relationships for children ages 6-18.
  • $150,000 to American Indian Health Center, Goodheart Behavioral Health in Spokane, Washington to hire a mental health clinician who specializes in therapeutic interventions for the Native American community and increase the number of community members served.
  • $150,000 to Sowega Council on Aging in South Georgia to deploy social isolation solutions through the Senior Center Without Walls program. “The funding provided by the UnitedHealthcare grant means that we will be able to help more seniors engage, learn and socialize through our social isolation project, with the goal of reducing feelings of loneliness that many isolated seniors experience,” said Izzy Sadler, executive director of the Sowega Council on Aging.”
  • $90,000 to On Our Own of Maryland to conduct facilitator training to start and expand recognized, evidence-based peer support programs such as Whole Health Action Management and Wellness Recovery Action Plan, at five peer-run Wellness and Recovery Centers.

“When you are un- or underinsured, have limited resources, or other instability in your life — as many of the folks in our network are experiencing — having steady peer support and good self-help practices are critically important to staying well and maintaining recovery,” said Katie Rouse, executive director of On Our Own of Maryland. “Thanks to UnitedHealthcare’s generous support, we will substantially increase the number of trained peer facilitators … so more peers can reactivate their own capacity for healing and growth.”

  • $65,000 to Resource Council of WNY in Buffalo, New York to establish the R-Kids Cupboard children's food pantry (with refrigerators, freezers, shelving units, nutritious food and more) and a demonstration kitchen to offer healthy cooking classes for the community.

“We see profound, persistent disparities playing out along racial lines in communities across the country. UnitedHealthcare is committed to addressing social and economic factors that have an impact on achieving and maintaining good health,” said Olivia Jefferson, vice president of social responsibility at UnitedHealthcare. “Ultimately, health is local. That’s why we’re working collectively with community organizations through our Empowering Health grants to advance change for people we call our friends, family and neighbors.”

Since launching its Empowering Health commitment in 2018, UnitedHealthcare has invested more than $51 million in Empowering Health grants reaching more than 8 million people through partnerships with community-based organizations in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

In June, the United Health Foundation, the philanthropic foundation of UnitedHealth Group, the parent company of UnitedHealthcare, made a $100 million commitment over 10 years to advance health equity, furthering its efforts to eliminate health disparities. This was the largest single philanthropic commitment ever made by the United Health Foundation.

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