Direct Relief Establishes “Health Equity Fund” with Initial $75 Million

Founding Partner AbbVie Foundation and Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott provide Anchoring Investments


Health Equity

Free Clinic of Meridian staff member, Desiree Wilson, takes a patient's vital signs during a regularly scheduled appointment. (Photo By Revere Photography for Direct Relief)
Free Clinic of Meridian staff member, Desiree Wilson, takes a patient's vital signs during a regularly scheduled appointment. (Photo By Revere Photography for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief today announced the formation of its Fund for Health Equity with $75 million raised against a goal of $150 million. The Fund will be steered by an Advisory Council with deep connections and experience in communities in which the effects of historic racism and socioeconomic disparities persist.


The members are:

  • Co-Chair Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, 18th U.S. Surgeon General of the United States, Founder BayouClinic, Inc.
  • Co-Chair Byron Scott, MD, MBA, Board Director of Direct Relief and Chair of its Medical Advisory Council
  • Martha Dawson, DNP, MSN, RN, FACHE, President and CEO President of the National Black Nurses Association, Associate Professor the University of Alabama at Birmingham
  • Jane Delgado, PhD, MS, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Gail Small, JD, Head Chief Woman, a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe

A key aim of the Fund over the initial five-year period is to provide financial support to community health centers as well as free and charitable clinics, as well as other community-based organizations and educational institutions that focus on non-clinical matters and circumstances that strongly affect a person’s health – physical environment and social, political, cultural, and economic factors – commonly known as the social determinants of health. The Fund will invite applications at a later date.

Initial anchoring support for the Fund has been provided by long-term partner AbbVie, which announced in December its contribution as part as part of its larger social investment, and by philanthropist MacKenzie Scott. This month the NBA also announced its support as part of NBA All-Star 2021, and the Fund welcomes others to join the efforts.

Direct Relief provides extensive, ongoing charitable support to over 2,000 such organizations across the U.S. with donations of essential medications for patients without insurance or means to pay, and also during emergencies. This experience has highlighted the lack of complementary philanthropic financial support in amounts and with flexibility that would enable groups with proven effectiveness and the earned trust of communities to build upon successful programs or try promising new ones – opportunities that the Fund will seek to fulfill.

“Direct Relief is profoundly grateful for the extraordinarily generous financial resources already provided to the Fund for Health Equity and for the guidance offered by distinguished members of the Advisory Council who have devoted their lives to promoting health equity,” said Direct Relief’s CEO Thomas Tighe. “This effort will in no way detract from the immediate, necessary work that remains to be done as the Covid pandemic rages, but it will help shape for the better what exists when we emerge from the pandemic by providing support to those who know best what can make a difference.”

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