Philanthropists Josh Harris, managing partner of the Philadelphia 76ers, and his wife, Marjorie Harris, plan to invest $1 million in companies funded by the Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health, a collaboration between Penn Medicine and the Wharton Social Impact Initiative of the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School that invests in early-stage businesses working to improve the social determinants of health of economically disadvantaged Philadelphians. The initiative was first announced in August 2021, with initial plans for a $5 million investment over the following three years.
“We are thrilled to continue collaborating with Penn Medicine through the Fund for Health to improve the health of Philadelphia communities, particularly underserved communities that may not have access to the same resources,” said Josh Harris, Managing Partner of the Philadelphia 76ers. “There are so many factors that contribute to overall health and well-being – the goal of this initiative is to invest in innovative companies that are directly addressing the issues that lead to health inequities and support them as they scale.”
Social determinants of health include issues such as food insecurity and lack of access to quality healthcare or stable housing, which affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes. Philadelphia County is among the hardest hit cities in the nation by the toll of these disparities, with more than 25 percent of residents living in poverty, 20 percent coping with food insecurity, and nearly 15 percent of its residents uninsured, according to Penn Medicine’s 2019 Community Health Needs Assessment report.
“No one’s zip code should determine whether they’re able to live a healthy life, but tackling longstanding, systemic problems requires a creative approach and diverse expertise – two factors which were at the foundation of our creation of the Fund for Health,” said University of Pennsylvania Health System CEO Kevin B. Mahoney. “We can make an even greater impact when like-minded collaborators who share this mission also decide, following their own diligence, to make follow-on investments. I am thrilled Josh and Marjorie Harris will be joining forces with us in this way to propel our vision to improve the social determinants of health in our city.”
So far, four companies have received a total of $850,000 through the Penn Medicine – Wharton Fund for Health. They include:
Kinvolved, a leader in developing communications software to reduce absenteeism in underserved school districts, which has subsequently been acquired by PowerSchool, a cloud-based K-12 educational software provider.
Lula, which provides a platform and support for small, often family-owned convenience stories pharmacies and other brick-and-mortar stores to deliver to customers via apps like DoorDash, Grubhub, and Uber EATS.
Uptrust, a customer relationship management tool that helps keep people out of the criminal justice system by avoiding unnecessary technical violations, like missing court dates or probation appointments.
RecoveryLink, a telehealth and electronic recovery records platform that improves the availability and delivery of recovery support services to people experiencing substance use and mental health disorders.
This effort continues Harris Philanthropies’ work with Penn Medicine, with whom they collaborated to deploy COVID-19 antibody testing to Philadelphia doctors and nurses, along with 76ers Co-Managing Partner David Blitzer and Sixers star Joel Embiid, during the early stage of the pandemic . Both Harris and Blitzer are graduates of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Fund for Health is fueled by a diverse investment team including students from Wharton and Penn Medicine, who work to identify and vet early stage, for-profit companies whose work is geared around addressing these key socio-economic issues which pose barriers to good health . Support from the program also offers opportunities for consultation with Penn faculty and staff and opportunities to leverage insights from both Penn Medicine and Wharton’s own work.