UnitedHealthcare funds maternal health, food access in Virginia

Six community-based organizations in Virginia will receive a total of $900,000 in funding from UnitedHealthcare. The national managed care organization announced Thursday that it will donate $11.4 million in grants to 84 community based organizations across the nation as part of its Empowering Health initiative, which aims to expand access to care and address the impact of social determinants of health on underserved communities. 


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Initiatives that address social determinants of health are becoming more relevant in the health care sector. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine estimates that 80 percent of what influences a person’s health does not directly involve medical care, but access to food, housing, transportation, and financial security. 

Mid-Atlantic UnitedHealthcare CEO Joe Ochipinti said of the Empowering Health program: 

“Social and economic factors have a profound impact on achieving and maintaining good health. Through Empowering Health grants, we’re working with local organizations to provide residents in the Mid-Atlantic region with greater access to essential resources in high-risk and high-need communities so they can live healthier lives.”

Here are the programs in the Commonwealth that will benefit from Empowering Health grants:

  • $250,000 to Urban Baby Beginnings (UBB) to implement and support the training, certification and services of community-based doulas of color so they can address clinical services for underinsured women of color during pregnancy and postpartum. UBB executive director Stephanie Spencer said the goal is to use this funding to train 400 doulas in the Commonwealth over the next two years.

    “We were really excited that UnitedHealthcare recognized the need for building a workforce for community doulas and just how important that was to have boots-on-the-ground people that look like the individuals that they were serving.”

  • $225,000 to Capital Area Food Bank to implement a food pharmacy for pregnant women, new mothers and children up to three years old in Northern Virginia. According to the Virginia SNAP-Ed Food Security Survey, 58 percent of households reported they did not have money to buy enough food as of September 2020. Subsequently, children in 29 percent of households did not eat enough.

  • $185,000 to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Virginia to create a new program to support older adults’ behavioral health. The program will help participants address depression and promote healthy lifestyle habits. The funding will also support the NAMI Llama and NAMI Talks Hero’s Journey educational series, which serve as a forum for mental health discussions.

  • $95,000 to Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation to implement the Healthy Lifestyles program. This initiative will train mentors at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Virginia Peninsula and Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Virginia. Mentors will educate children ages 9 to 14 on healthy nutritional habits, physical fitness, and overall well-being.

  • $95,000 to St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation to support a food pharmacy program coordinator for the Norfolk Food Ecosystem project. This program utilizes food distribution hubs and community-based markets to provide affordable food for the community, as well as providing nutritional education and workforce opportunities.

  • $50,000 to Virginia Fresh Match to connect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) with low-capacity, low-technology sellers such as farm stands, rural grocery stores and immigrant-owned convenience stores. Data from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Agriculture show that food deserts, or areas that lack nearby fresh, healthy food options, often overlap with lower-income, racially diverse neighborhoods.