Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund gives $1M in grants across Bay Area

Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Nearly one year ago, the Bay Area health community was jolted by the sudden death of Bernard Tyson at the age of 60, the first African-American CEO of Kaiser Permanente.

Since then, the foundation set up in his name has worked to preserve and continue his efforts to reform health care and make it accessible for everybody.  

Now, that foundation is giving $1-million in grants to seven Bay Area organizations, aimed at doing just that.

Bernard Tyson was known as a champion for equity in health care, whether in Washington D.C. or here at home in the Bay Area.

His passing at age 60, so young in his drive to make health care better for all efforts cut short by a heart attack.

Now the Bernard J. Tyson Impact Fund under the umbrella of the American Heart Association is giving out $1-million for community-led solutions aimed at the social factors that affect people’s health.

One beneficiary is NEMS – Northeast Medical Services in San Francisco, which helps low-income Asian immigrant communities, in particular, need now because of COVID-19.

“We adopted the approach of the drive-through and walk through sites,” Dr. Amy Tang said. “In April, March more than 50-percent of deaths related to COVID were among Asians and there was not really much detail with data to explain why.”

NEMS conducted more than 3,000 COVID tests through its drive-through sites but realized hundreds of more people were falling through the cracks, not getting the message nor the medical care they needed about the coronavirus.

They were hindered by the very barriers to health care the Tyson Fund is designed to fight — Language barriers, concerns about immigration status, no transportation to get to test sites, cultural concerns about going to medical facilities, plus, the risks associated with families in multi-generational households.

NEMS decided a mobile van was the solution and now money from the Tyson Fund will make that happen.

“We plan to use this van to outreach to areas of the city that have a high burden of COVID-19 and who currently don’t have a lot of testing options available to them. Particularly the immigrant population who may not be best served by current testing options typically offered in English,” Dr. Tang said. 

With the help of videos in five languages and staff, the van will travel to the people who need help testing will be open to all, with special attention to immigrant communities in the Bayview, Hunters Point, Visitacion Valley, and Portola neighborhoods of San Francisco. 

“We feel very lucky to be one of the recipients of Bernard Tyson AHA grant and hope to continue his legacy of achieving health equity in our community,” Dr. Tang said. 

The NEMS Mobil van for COVID testing is being retrofitted right now and will be ready for use in October.  

In total, the Tyson Fund collected $2-million from across the nation, money for seven  Bay Area and three New York organizations.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is the major Bay Area contributor.

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