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American Heart Association names first Social Impact Fund recipients in Chicago

CHICAGO – The American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, today announced the first set of Social Impact Fund investments aimed at improving health outcomes for people in Chicago, where residents face the largest life expectancy gap in the country, according to a recent study.

The American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund invests in social enterprises that are breaking down social and economic barriers to generate positive, large-scale health outcomes. Currently operating in the cities of Chicago, Boston, and Flint, Michigan, the Social Impact Fund seeks to empower communities with localized resources to change their own trajectory of health and well-being. Investments support local solutions in the areas of economic empowerment, healthy food access, housing, recidivism (a person’s relapse into criminal behavior) and educational opportunities.  Social enterprises maximize benefits to society and the environment while reinvesting profits into their social programs.

“Where you live shouldn’t determine how long you live,” said Dr. Derek Robinson, chief medical officer of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois and American Heart Association Diversity Leadership Committee volunteer. “We’re seeing a 30-year gap in life expectancy between two Chicago neighborhoods located just 9 miles apart. This proves there is an urgent need for thoughtful, localized solutions to help people in every ZIP code live their longest life in good health.”

Chicago’s first round of Social Impact Fund grant recipients are:

Forty Acres Fresh Market is a for-profit social enterprise with a mission to increase access to affordable, fresh and healthy foods. A catalyst for economic development, Forty Acres operates a small specialty grocery store to sell fresh meats and produce, offer a limited assortment of grocery staples and provide delivery services to under-resourced communities. The Association’s investment will help the organization expand home delivery services to low-income and elderly residents and provide jobs for community residents returning from prison.

Sweet Potato Patch is a technology-based enterprise that uses smart technology and GPS tracking systems to deliver healthy food options to residents living in urban food deserts within Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. The enterprise’s high impact model sources its produce from disadvantaged farmers in the southern United States and employs community residents for its delivery service. The Social Impact Fund’s investments will help this early-stage firm expand its delivery services to more communities on the South Side and hire more local residents as community health workers who will provide nutritional education to promote healthy food consumption in public housing communities.

West Side United works with healthcare providers, educators, the faith community, businesses and government to improve community health and economic wellness to build vibrant neighborhoods on Chicago’s West Side. West Side United addresses the social conditions that drive poor health outcomes such as high blood pressure on the West Side. The American Heart Association’s investment will allow the organization to employ and train community health workers to address the high rates of high blood pressure among parishioners of 18 local churches on the West Side. The community health workers will monitor these people and help them navigate through treatment, working alongside local healthcare institutions and using an evidence-based approach to diagnose, treat and prevent high blood pressure.  

While significant advances have been made in cardiovascular disease prevention and treatment, health results are disparate across economic, racial and ethnic groups. According to the County Health Rankings, only 20% of a person’s overall health is determined by clinical medical care, while the rest is determined by social and economic factors, as well as physical environment. According to the United Way ALICE report, approximately 50 million people in the United States are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease because they lack the most basic needs — healthy food, clean air and drinking water, quality education, employment and housing.1

Through the Social Impact Fund, the American Heart Association is engaging Chicagoans to create innovative solutions that will significantly improve health and life expectancy in their communities. Early next year, the Social Impact Fund will distribute a second round of funding to additional entrepreneurs, businesses and organizations that are creating and implementing localized solutions to reduce systemic barriers. Organizations interested in applying for the second funding cycle can do so at starting in the first quarter of 2020.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is investing in the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Fund as part of the company’s broader efforts to dramatically improve the lives of people by removing barriers and advancing social factors that impact their health and well-being. 

1.             United Way ALICE: The Consequences of Insufficient Income 2017 Report



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.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) is committed to expanding access to quality, cost-effective health care to as many people as possible in Illinois. BCBSIL is dedicated to innovation and exploring, nurturing and activating future possibilities to make the health care system work better for our members and our communities. BCBSIL is a division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company and an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association.


Media Contacts

Julia Kersey
American Heart Association

Colleen Miller
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois

A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association