Advancing Health Equity through Community-Based Contributions – Announcing the ACT on Health Equity Community Solutions Challenge Recipients


Martha Orzechowski, Head, US Advocacy & Alliance, Corporate Affairs

Health begins in our homes, schools and communities, and for too long, systemic barriers have prevented millions of Americans from achieving the best possible health outcomes. As a natural extension of our company Values to follow the science and put patients first, AstraZeneca US is making a long-term commitment to identify and invest in solutions to advance health equity. 

In June 2021, AstraZeneca launched the “ACT on Health Equity: Community Solutions Challenge” to identify and invest in solutions in partnership with the external community. Thirty recipient organizations were chosen out of more than 1,350 applications from 49 U.S. states. Recipients share a focus on community health and wellbeing, youth STEM, and career readiness. Organizations were carefully selected through a robust internal review process.

“AstraZeneca is committed to advancing health equity in the US and we realize that this can only be done in partnership with local community leaders. The Community Solutions Challenge is a deliberate addition to our giving strategy which we believe is fundamental to achieving greater impact.  We must work together at the community level in our schools, homes and communities to address the factors that contribute to inequities,” said Martha Orzechowski, Head, US Advocacy & Alliance, Corporate Affairs. “This distinguished group of organizations is leading change and making a direct, positive impact on underserved populations in all regions of the country.”

The 30 recipient groups showcased innovative programs that take a unique approach to improve the health of their communities. Learn more about our winners and the impact that they make within their communities below.



Community Servings, Inc. | Massachusetts

Community Servings’ Medically Tailored Nutrition Program is an evidence-based health intervention and emergency food assistance program for individuals, across Massachusetts, who are experiencing the dual challenges of poverty and critical/chronic illnesses, such as HIV, cancer, diabetes, and renal disease. Through the provision of home-delivered, medically tailored meals, and nutrition education and counseling, our goals are to improve the health, quality of life, and economic well-being of our clients and their families. Long-term, we aim to promote health equity and social justice by targeting communities that have faced longstanding health and food access disparities.

YOU, Inc., an Affiliate of Seven Hills Foundation | Worcester, Massachusetts

YOU, Inc.’s Upward Bound and Youth Academy programs are five-year leadership and college access programs that serve up to 130 promising, economically-disadvantaged students from six Worcester high schools each year. The programs support students through four years of high school and the first year of college, motivating them to reach their full academic potential and preparing them for success in college and beyond.


After-School All-Stars | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Camden, New Jersey

After-School All-Stars provides free, comprehensive after-school programs to keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life. After-School All-Stars Philadelphia and Camden (ASASPC) provides enrichment programs to middle school students to help them develop a foundational knowledge and understanding of architecture and construction as a career, apply that knowledge to project-based learning activities, and meet with professionals in the field.

Big Picture Philadelphia | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Big Picture Philadelphia (BPP) challenges systemic inequities in education by providing transformative learning experiences at two high schools: el Centro de Estudiantes, an accelerated school for Opportunity Youth (youth between the ages of 16-21 previously not working or in school) and Vaux Big Picture High School, a four-year public school primarily serving students in the Sharswood neighborhood of Philadelphia. The majority of the 580 students BPP serve annually sit at the intersection of multiple vulnerable identities: 76% of our student population is Black, 18% is Latinx, 100% of students are eligible for the Federal Free and Reduced Lunch Program, and most live in neighborhoods with poverty rates of 42-53%. To remove barriers to learning and ensure the needs of the whole student are being served, BPP provides comprehensive social-emotional, mental health, wellness, and basic needs support to students through a Resiliency Support Services program. Funding provided by the ACT on Health Equity: Community Solutions Challenge will go towards these services and will help ensure students are able to fully participate in their education.

Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. | Delaware

The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition program begins by hosting community focus groups to identify barriers in access to care, mammography screening, beliefs about the healthcare system, and cultural norms about health and disease in the Haitian population. Groups will inform on how to most effectively communicate within cultural/social norms on the importance of early detection to those with no prior knowledge or experience with mammography screening. Findings will be utilized to develop a training program for the health messengers known as Chanpyons (“Champions” in creole Haitian), businesswomen and community leaders, along with screened women from the community to champion this outreach amongst the Haitian community, regularly meeting to develop strategies to overcome barriers and ensure women get their mammogram.

Esperanza | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Champions of Hope: Latinos Preventing Diabetes is an inter-generational Latinx diabetes prevention program using youth leadership as the catalyst for community health education. The project empowers youth across the K-14 educational pipeline and trains Community Health Workers drawn from a rich network of local residents to forge momentum and capacity for sustained diabetes prevention programming in the Latinx neighborhoods of North Philadelphia.

Genesys Works New York City | New York, New York

Genesys Works NYC is a nonprofit social enterprise sparking sustainable futures for high potential high school students from underserved NYC communities. Genesys Works young professionals participate in 8 weeks of professional and technical skills training to prepare them for year-long, paid, 20 hour/week internships in business operations and IT at companies such as JP Morgan Chase, PayPal, Accenture, and Kirkland & Ellis. By providing high school seniors skills training, meaningful work experiences, and connections to professional networks, Genesys Works helps young adults onto a path to economic self-sufficiency and a lifetime of career success.

Kid Power Inc. | Washington, District of Columbia

Kid Power’s VeggieTime program empowers students and their families to build positive relationships with food through hands-on gardening, cooking, and food system lessons. Students participate in curriculum that builds connections between environmental science, students’ experiences with food and culture, and understanding how to make balanced decisions on food choices. VeggieTime promotes food access for students through direct no-cost distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, allowing students and their families to apply what they’ve learned through VeggieTime without concern for financial or geographic access to ingredients.

Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center | Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties, Maryland

Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center (LHAAMC) will develop its Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) from existing pilot programs, with the goal of taking the program to people in communities delivered by trusted community partners. LHAAMC will serve as collaborative partner to bring organizations together to work towards the shared goals including enrollment and retention rates, increase weight loss and activity level, and addressing social determinants of health. LHAAMC's Community Health team have strong partnerships with community partners, including nonprofit and faith-based organizations.

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Women In Natural Sciences engages young women, the majority of whom are women of color (Black/African American, Latinx/Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander), by providing them the tools, experience, and confidence needed to enter competitive higher-education and workforce environments ready to solve the challenges of the 21st century. Through field trips, lessons rooted in the natural world, and peer mentorship and support, WINS provides avenues of personal, academic, and professional opportunity. The Academy’s vision for WINS is to create an accessible, engaging, and effective pipeline for young women, specifically young women of color, to become exposed to STEM education and pursue careers in STEM fields, thereby evolving the future of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology, and bringing their inherently valuable lived experiences to the forefront of intellectual discovery and advancement locally, regionally, and nationally.

The Police Athletic League | New York, New York

PAL STEM will engage 1,000 elementary and middle school students in STEM classes that include hydroponics, robotics, computer science (block programming, web design, Python, and coding languages), and chess. PAL STEM emphasizes the use of scientific and design method, with hands-on, sequentially structured activities to build the academic and critical thinking skills of PAL youth, as well as skills that prepare them for future STEM career opportunities.

The Upstate Foundation | Syracuse, New York

She Matters is a peer-to-peer outreach and education program created by the Upstate Cancer Center to reduce breast cancer disparities and improve health outcomes among low-income, primarily Black and Latinx, women living in public housing. With ongoing support from the Upstate Cancer Center, residents from the Syracuse Housing Authority serve as trusted health messengers to provide breast health education; offer support from navigation to screening mammography; and improve access to necessary diagnostic and treatment services. The goal: to eliminate barriers, change behavior, and make annual breast cancer screening a priority.

Towson University Foundation, Inc. | Maryland

Towson University's Center for STEM Excellence offers an array of science education programs for K -12 students designed to introduce students to the world of STEM through hands-on, learner-centered, inquiry-based activities. Their program, Project RISE (Rigorous, Inclusive Science Experiences), will expose up to 6,500 students from traditionally underrepresented and underserved populations to learner-centered STEM activities aligned with state and national curriculum standards, at no cost to schools or students.

YWCA Tri County Area | Pottstown, Pennsylvania

By developing strong programs for enrichment, exploration, and exposure YWCA seeks to eliminate barriers and improve access to STEAM learning. In 1-hour classes, youth will explore and reinforce early science skills, fine and gross motor skills, teamwork, social/emotional skills, and math and literacy skills.


Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation | Corpus Christi, Texas

The Pride Center serves as an LGBTQ+ focused community center and provides health, wellness, medical, social, economic, and employment resources to the LGBTQ+ community as they strive to overcome discrimination, racism, and create positive change. AstraZeneca's contribution will help the Pride Center form the LGBTQ+ Latinx Youth and Family Project aimed to support the LGBTQ+ youth that want to transition as transgender individuals in adulthood.

Code/Art | South Florida

Through its Future Tech LeadHERs program, Code/Art will provide middle and high school girls in Miami-Dade and Broward County Public Schools (majority Title I) advanced-level coding workshops focused on Artificial Intelligence (AI). The updated curriculum will focus on AI ethics, examine issues of bias, cover fundamental AI concepts through online and unplugged coding activities, and include AI career spotlights. More specifically, Code/Art will create curated machine learning (ML) lessons that allow students to use datasets for real-world issues such as mental wellness, youth violence and climate change. Program participants will also be matched with mentors to provide them with additional career- readiness and leadership skills coaching.

Eva’s Heroes | Texas

Eva's Heroes transforms individuals 14 and up with Intellectual Special Needs (ISN), such as Autism, Down Syndrome, and Cerebral Palsy, by building kinship with their families, caregivers, and the community at large. Their 100% community-based services specialize in recreation and socialization and allow for unique opportunities to foster self-assured interactions, enhanced independence, and fortified self-esteem. Program outcomes will: build socialization and recreation normalcy improve flexibility and balance make fitness part of daily routine Increased daily physical activity levels.

Florida Justice Center | Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida

Florida Justice Center aims to provide a connection to medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment for returning citizens from jail and prison. Due to a variety of barriers, the gap between release from incarceration and receiving medical or mental health treatment is between six and

eight weeks. Florida Justice Center will provide case managers to conduct pre-release intake, assessment, and connections to services with the goal of completely eliminating service gaps and get people the help they need in a timely manner.

Public Health Institute | Albuquerque, New Mexico

With funding from AstraZeneca, FACES for the Future Coalition, a Program of Public Health Institute, will grow and scale its Public Health Youth Corps (PHYC) program in Albuquerque, NM. Through the FACES PHYC, high school students learn about various health career options, hone their professional skills, participate in workshops on public health topics and receive certifications in CPR/First Aid, Mental Health First Aid, Stop the Bleed, and Opioid Overdose Intervention. As a best practice model in health career pipeline programming, FACES also provides students with the holistic wellness support and connection to resources that they need to achieve their goals.

Santa Fe Alliance for Science | Santa Fe, New Mexico

The mission of the Santa Fe Alliance for Science (SFAFS) is to inspire the inner scientist in Santa Fe students by creating STEM learning opportunities through their network of volunteers. Their unique cohort of volunteers – approximately 75 scientists, engineers and local STEM experts – encourage students' natural curiosities through real-world, hands-on STEM activities. Their programs help to build student interest, confidence and competence in STEM, so kids get on an early path to lifelong learning and see nothing but possibilities in their future.


Femergy | Central Ohio

GHRO Your Future is an exploratory program dedicated to the self-development of adolescent girls, ages 12-18. Girls are matched with strong, female community leaders who serve as their mentors and provide coaching for education, social-emotional health, confidence building, and workforce readiness. Program takeaways are skills (social, emotional, and cognitive) that can be taught and passed on, are essential for growth (both personal and academic), and excellent for encouraging constructive attitudes, versatility, and a readiness in taking on life’s challenges.

Franciscan Health Foundation | Southern Indianapolis

The Franciscan Health Burmese Pop-Up Clinics program will provide the Burmese population with culturally appropriate healthcare. One-day pop-up clinics will occur at times and locations convenient to the Burmese community and meet some of the immediate healthcare needs of patients, including health screenings, immunizations, and school or sports physicals.

LAHC-Leaders Advancing & Helping Communities | Dearborn, Michigan

LAHC's Youth Leadership and Bridge to College Program (YLBCP) is an intensive high school program that focuses on leadership development and preparation for post-secondary education and/or employment. LAHC's youth participants have asked for more programming about post-secondary opportunities and even opportunities to work while they are in high school, as a result, LAHC aims to replicate and expand a summer 2021 Career Boot Camp pilot to enable a larger number of youths to access these resources and opportunities over a much shorter time frame.

Medical Organization for Latino Advancement | Illinois

The MOLA Healthcare Careers Mentorship program ‌is‌ ‌an‌ ‌essential‌ ‌career‌ ‌incubator‌ ‌for‌ ‌Latinx‌ ‌students‌ ‌ aspiring‌ ‌to‌ ‌become‌ ‌part‌ ‌of‌ ‌a‌ ‌healthcare‌ ‌field.‌ ‌‌This‌ ‌program‌ ‌aims‌ ‌to‌ ‌build‌ ‌a‌ ‌pipeline‌ ‌to‌ ‌ healthcare‌ ‌careers‌ ‌for‌ ‌Latinx‌ ‌undergraduate‌ ‌students.‌ ‌The‌ ‌program‌ ‌has‌ ‌three‌ ‌main‌ ‌components:‌ ‌One-on-One‌ ‌Mentorship;‌ ‌Casa‌ ‌and‌ ‌Cohort‌ ‌Experience;‌ ‌and‌ ‌Curriculum‌ ‌ and‌ ‌Lectures.‌ ‌Mentees‌ ‌will‌ ‌receive‌ ‌one-on- one‌ ‌and‌ ‌group‌ ‌mentorship,‌ ‌ support‌ ‌and‌ ‌guidance‌ ‌for‌ ‌their‌ ‌future‌ ‌healthcare‌ ‌careers‌ ‌while‌ ‌gaining‌ ‌real-world‌ ‌ experience‌ ‌engaging‌ ‌in‌ ‌projects‌ ‌related‌ ‌to‌ ‌healthcare‌ ‌fields.‌ ‌ ‌

Partnership for Innovation in Education | Ohio

The Career Academy Tool Kit allows 7,500 underserved students in-person and remote access to industry credential and career programs that accelerate high school graduation and entry into high-demand STEM occupations. In addition, this tool kit will be available virtually at no cost to high schools via RemotEDx reaching indirectly 1.2M OH students and 750K educators.

Saint Anthony Hospital | West and Southside Chicago, Illinois

Saint Anthony Hospital's Cocina Fresca, is aimed at addressing food insecurity and literacy to improve the overall health and wellness of community members on Chicago’s west and southwest sides. The Cocina Fresca project includes the following goals: 1. Improve food literacy and build capacity to cook affordable nutritious meals within food insecure communities. 2. Mitigate barriers to accessing affordable, nutrient-dense foods. 3. Increase access to preventive screenings to address the high burden of chronic disease among community members.


Adolescent Counseling Services | Santa Clara and San Mateo, California

Adolescent Counseling Services (ACS)'s Mental Health Access for Youth Initiative (MHAYI) provides access to no/low-cost mental health assessments, individual and group therapy, substance misuse treatment, education, and support for vulnerable populations, including tailored services to LGBTQIA+ youth. The Initiative addresses potentially life-threatening conditions such as depression, suicidality, and substance use. The need for youth mental health services has increased exponentially since the COVID-19 pandemic, making the MHAYI more critical than ever - ACS served 79% more clients in the past year than the one prior.

Montana State University Foundation | Montana

One Community in Health is an interprofessional team of nursing faculty, nursing students, and dental hygienists who provide screening, preventive care, specialty referral, education, and case management for American Indian children living on Montana Reservations. Through One Community in Health, faculty and students from Montana State University and dental professionals from Smiles Across Montana provide critical healthcare services for young American Indian children while assisting Montana’s Tribal Nations in meeting the Office of Head Start health requirements and providing clinical practice opportunities for nursing students, preparing them to deliver culturally competent care in rural and reservation communities across Montana. 

Multiplier/Nest for Families | Hawaii

The Nest community-based model addresses the unique needs of rural island families and engages community members with lived experience to design support that meets the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander families and other communities identified as at-risk for poor outcomes due to circumstances including houselessness, substance use, and recent immigration. Nest proposes to support more than 600 families in the proposed program year, including 300 new pregnant and parenting participants recruited during the proposed program year.

New Village Girls Academy | Los Angeles, California

Since 2006, New Village Girls Academy has been providing a unique high school educational program with critical social-emotional support to young women, ages 14 to 21, from underserved communities of color in Los Angeles County. Their exceptional STEM Program includes weekly science classes in biology, chemistry and a science elective taught by experts from the California Science Center using curriculum specifically written for our students using Next Generation Science Standards. They also offer an environmental engineering science course focused on practical solutions to real-world problems, technology skills development in our on-campus makerspace, and STEM-based internships. By providing opportunities for young women to learn about STEM careers through guest panels, mentored internships and relevant hands-on learning, they are creating new career pathways for women of color and increasing their representation in STEM fields.