While writers are often advised to avoid cliches, health is wealth is one I’ll make an exception for—because it’s that true and that important. Our health is our wealth and it’s often taken for granted until it’s compromised. The pandemic was an eye-opening experience in that regard—it revealed how little attention we often pay to our health and the health of others, and we all have suffered because of it. 
The response to the pandemic highlighted a fact of which those who were already living with disabilities, chronic illnesses, and compromised immune systems were most likely acutely aware. Our society does not adequately accommodate or care for illness. It seemed for a time that the pandemic might change that, as workplaces and events went remote and became more accessible. But even at the height of the pandemic, safe working conditions were an immense privilege. Our most essential workers—often low-wage workers in factories, hospitals, grocery stores, pharmacies, and other critical industries that keep our society running—had little choice but to risk their health. Indeed, while health is the great equalizer, it seems that wealth often can afford us our health. 
This fact was made incredibly clear by how disproportionately Covid affected different communities. In the first year of the pandemic, death rates were markedly higher in poorer neighborhoods and communities of color—your zip code very literally impacted your health. This of course isn’t anything new; it’s the result of longstanding systemic injustices and social inequities that are also determinants of health (things like access to safe housing, nutritious food, education, health insurance, quality medical care, paid sick leave, and so forth). 
As any regular reader of mine knows, I’m driven by the belief that everyone has the right to reach their full potential, succeed, and build financial independence. I’m hard-pressed to think of anything more vital to this ideal than health equity. Over a decade ago, through my own health journey, I began understanding how dangerous and deadly gaps in our healthcare system are to women and other marginalized communities. And when I see a gap in need of bridging, I get to building. It’s what I’ve done my entire life (first, for companies doing business globally and now, for marginalized communities facing structural inequalities). I saw how critical—literally life or death—it is for us to build a path to health equity for all. Fortuitously, it was around this same time that I was connected with the American Heart Association and found in it the community, partner, and expertise needed to make a real impact. 
Investing in health by investing in social entrepreneurs through impact funds.
Today, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and grassroots organizations are already doing the vital work to tackle economic and social barriers to health within their communities. One of the most critical ways we can all help to advance health equity is to invest in these organizations. The goal of the American Heart Association’s social impact work is to do just that. Through these targeted, research-backed funds—like the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund and my Foundation’s Elizabeth Elting Fund—investors can directly support the social entrepreneurs and community leaders creating the solutions needed to make health equity a reality. The social impact funds are nimble, reactive, and meet local social enterprises exactly where they are before taking a bottom-up approach to fuel optimal solutions. 
The results and what’s next.
Believing deeply in the power of social entrepreneurship, in 2018, The Elizabeth Elting Foundation contributed $1 million to support the AHA’s Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund. The results were astounding—the social impact return was 14 times the initial investment. The support allowed seven critical organizations—all led by women of color—to both create change within their communities and leverage the initial investment for follow-on funding, allowing them to continue and expand their enterprises addressing domestic violence, economic resilience, mental health, education, social justice, and access to health care. 
What the data makes clear is that social impact funds work and remarkably so. And this is just the beginning. Seeing how impactful these investments were inspired me to again team up with the American Heart Association and launch the Elizabeth Elting Fund with a $5 million investment. In its first five years, the fund will apply a targeted investment strategy to engage social enterprises led by women and women of color. The first investment window opens this spring, and I am so humbled and thrilled to be able to support another crop of social entrepreneurs doing such profound work. 
Together, we can make health equity a reality.  
The American Heart Association is a global leader in science and research in service of achieving its guiding mission: to be a relentless force for health and well-being for all. Through its social impact funds, the AHA supports local entrepreneurs, small businesses, and organizations that are breaking down the social and economic barriers to healthy lives. Whether you’re investing your money, platform, voice, or time, this fight needs you! Social determinants of health rob the futures of women and underserved communities across the U.S., where your zip code, your income, your race, and your gender all impact your life expectancy. We can’t succeed without our health, and we can’t fight for a better future if we aren’t here to do so. That’s precisely why we need your passion and energy. 
We have to be our own advocates—for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for our communities. We have to take care of ourselves so we can lift up others and keep fighting for a world in which everyone can thrive. Social entrepreneurs and community change-makers are paving the way for a brighter future for all—it's up to us to step up and support their efforts. So please share this link to the American Heart Association’s Social Impact Funds website as widely as possible. Together, there are no limits to what we can achieve. 


Liz Elting