Payers, Social Determinants

UnitedHealthcare Invests $11.1M To Address SDOH Needs

UnitedHealthcare awarded grants to 66 nonprofits across 12 states. The grants will support those struggling with social isolation, behavioral health, food insecurity and other social determinants of health.

UnitedHealthcare is providing $11.1 million in grants to 66 nonprofits in 12 states, the health insurer announced Tuesday. The grants will support those battling food insecurity, social isolation, behavioral health issues and other social determinants of health.

The grants are part of Empowering Health, a program launched in 2018 that aims to improve access to care and address social determinants of health. To date, UnitedHealthcare has invested a total of $62 million in 30 states and the District of Columbia through the program.

The newest round of grants will go toward organizations in Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas and Washington. Recipients include:

  • Massachusetts-based Community Servings, which received $300,000 to create a program to help patients transition off of a medically-tailored meals program.
  • Atlanta, Georgia-based CHRIS 180, which received $300,000 for a community health worker program supporting trauma-informed mental health social services for low-income residents of the westside of Atlanta.
  • Pierce County, Washington-based Consejo Counseling and Referral Service, which received $200,000 for culturally relevant wellness programming for youth and families.
  • Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota-based Trellis, which received $200,000 to help reduce loneliness for those with memory loss and their caregivers.
  • Syracuse, New York-based The Upstate Foundation, which received $165,000 for Upstate Medical University’s She/We Matter Program, an outreach program that aims to make health screenings more accessible for low-income Black and Latinx women.
  • Rhode Island-based The Providence Center, which received $65,000 to improve community mental health services for children.

To choose recipients of the grants, UnitedHealthcare worked with its local health plans to understand the needs of their respective areas, said Olivia Jefferson, vice president of social responsibility of the insurer.

“Healthcare is so local,” Jefferson said in an interview. “It’s important for us to not think that we know everything and that we know exactly what’s happening in every state. … We work really closely with our local health plans to better understand what’s happening in the landscape and then we identify with their support, nonprofit organizations in that particular market, who we know have a history of addressing social determinants of health within that market.”

UnitedHealthcare has quarterly check-ins with their partners to understand how the programs are performing and if certain metrics are being met.

About 90% of health outcomes are due to social, behavioral and economic factors. UnitedHealthcare aims to address this issue through its investment.

“As one of the largest healthcare companies, we just feel a huge responsibility to not only take care of our members, but also the folks who continue to be underserved and uninsured,” Jefferson said.

She added that the payer especially hopes to have an impact on behavioral health access.

“We know that the pandemic has really exacerbated behavioral health, particularly for our young people,” Jefferson stated. “When you look at a lot of the different grants that we’ve funded, particularly this year, we’ve really doubled down on trying to work with organizations that are addressing the behavioral health needs of the communities that truly are underserved, and also really thinking about how we ensure that behavioral health is culturally sensitive and appropriate.”

Photo: StockFinland, Getty Images