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Another round of extensive funding is coming down the pike to local organizations supporting some of the District’s most financially vulnerable residents.

The Health Equity Fund (HEF), in conjunction with Greater Washington Community Foundation (GWCF), is disbursing grant funding over five years to facilitate health equity and positive health outcomes for residents throughout the District of Columbia. 

GWCF, a community cornerstone that connects concerned donors with nonprofits working to combat poor health outcomes, understands just how impactful socioeconomic disparities weigh on the overall well-being of individuals and families by large.  The disheartening adversity faced by factions of residents inspired greater reason to allocate an initial amount of $9.2 million through the HEF, to help remedy the many crises that contribute to greater health disparities.

“Mindful that health and wealth are inextricably linked, the HEF’s first round of grants is boldly investing in economic mobility and wealth building in D.C.’s historically underinvested communities,” said GWCF President and CEO Tonia Wellons. “Achieving this vision puts our city on a trajectory to improve and achieve optimal health outcomes for all D.C. residents.”

According to the Health Equity Summary Report for the District of Columbia (2018), 80% of the District’s health outcomes are driven by economic, social, and several other factors, compared to only 20% of health outcomes stemming from clinical care. With a current poverty rate of 17.48% as reported by World Population Review, the consequences of socioeconomic disparities are concentrated in greater quantities of households residing in the eastern wards of the city, southwest Prince George’s County, and pockets of northern Virginia and Montgomery County, Maryland. Hardships including homelessness, food insecurity, income, and employment play major roles in the causes and increase in serious health issues.

The Fund has invested in a litany of initiatives to improve social and economic burdens across various communities, largely investing in income pilots for several of the most marginalized demographics in the city.  Dr. Marla M. Dean, senior director of the HEF, spoke to the detriment of the racial wealth gap and its influences on significant health disparities across the District, and emphasized the importance of creating opportunities for economic advancement.  

“Our way of addressing health inequities is to look at an economic mobility strategy because we believe that health and wealth are connected.  So, if we increase the economic mobility in ultimately underserved communities, then their health outcomes will improve not completely, but dramatically,” Dean explained.  “We will be announcing a second round in the upcoming weeks, [as] this one is going to be focused on policy advocacy change, [and] a health and economic mobility agenda.” 

The initial round of funding dispersed in the last quarter of 2022 has financially reinforced the efforts of 32 direct service organizations, namely Beloved Community, Bread for the City, Mothers Outreach Network, and Yachad to name a few,  who are actively creating programs to fill the holes within a broken economic infrastructure; ranging from providing food, clothing, medical, and legal services, to other District organizations providing cash assistance for returning citizens, and domestic violence victims in urgent need to relocate and restructure their lives. 

During fiscal year 2022, the GWCF and its donors shelved out more than $92 million to a wide range of causes, including health, economic development, education, human services, the arts, and the environment.  District leaders believe the generous grant funding can greatly alleviate challenging health outcomes that over time will heal, and pivot the condition of various communities.  

“The Health Equity Fund represents an important opportunity to advance DC HOPE – health, opportunity, prosperity, and equity,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser shared during the inaugural launch.  “We know that by addressing the social determinants of health, we can attack disparities in health outcomes, empower families and transform communities.”

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