Teamwork in Tennessee: UnitedHealthcare and Memphis Nonprofits Address Social Determinants of Health

There’s more to good health than regular visits to your doctor’s office. Access to healthy food, safe housing and transportation are also factors. In underserved communities, addressing these social determinants of health takes focus – and teamwork.

In May, UnitedHealthcare brought together seven nonprofit organizations in Memphis to help address social determinants of health in the city and throughout Shelby County.  A $1million grant from UnitedHealthcare’s Empowering Health initiative will support critical clinical and social service needs, including dental care; access to fresh and healthy food; addressing senior hunger and social isolation; and promoting youth health, education and physical activity.

“UnitedHealthcare’s vision of bringing like-minded community organizations together will help these groups make an even stronger impact than they could accomplish by acting alone,” said Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland, in announcing the grants at the Greater Memphis Chamber on May 13. “Working together is key.”

The grant recipients in Memphis include Mid-South Food BankChurch HealthMetropolitan Inter-Faith AssociationRegional One HealthShelby County Education FoundationYMCA of Memphis and the Mid-South and Christ Community Health Services.         

The grantees will work collaboratively to enhance their services and increase the number of people served. For example, the Mid-South Food Bank will supply food boxes to Regional One Health’s new food pantry for uninsured or Medicaid-eligible patients.                          

“We know poor nutrition impacts health,” said Mid-South Food Bank President and CEO Estella Mayhue-Greer. “Our goal is to provide nutritious food to those who need it, so we can have a definite impact on hospital readmissions and diabetes, which are a big problem in our area.”

By addressing social determinants of health in high-risk and high-need areas, the goal is to make the health system work better for everyone.

“Nearly 80 percent of what influences a person’s health happens outside the physician’s office,” said UnitedHealthcare of Tennessee CEO Steve Wilson. “Through improving the social determinants of health, like housing, transportation, food, social services and safety net issues, we can improve the lives of individuals and families in communities like Memphis.”

Empowering Health, a UnitedHealthcare initiative, focuses on redefining health access and addressing the social determinants of health by working with nonprofit organizations across the country through investments, innovation and volunteerism. In 2019, Empowering Health grants will be issued in seven states (Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin) for an estimated $7.6 million committed with the goal to reach nearly 1.5 million people in those states.

For more information on the grants please visit,