Health Foundation for Western & Central New York Receives $9 Million Gift from Philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to Support Health Equity Initiatives

Health Foundation's 20th anniversary logo

BUFFALO AND SYRACUSE, NY – The Board of Trustees and President Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD, of the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York announced on October 28, 2022, that the organization has received $9 million from philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott. The funds will support the Health Foundation’s efforts to pursue racial and socioeconomic health equity in western and central New York through partnerships and programs that address the systemic causes of health disparities and improve the health of people in those regions.

Scott and her team selected the Health Foundation for the unsolicited gift after a rigorous review of nonprofit organizations across the U.S. For the past several years, Scott has awarded a series of large donations to groups around the globe that are working to advance racial equity and address under-resourced needs.

Scott has become known for her hands-off approach to giving, and, as with her other donations, she will entrust the Health Foundation to fully determine how these funds will be used.

“This remarkable gift from MacKenzie Scott reaffirms our ongoing commitment to pursuing racial and socioeconomic health equity in western and central New York,” said Cheryl Smith Fisher, Chair, Health Foundation Board of Trustees. “Our team is thoughtfully determining how we can redistribute these funds in the community for the greatest possible impact. We see this moment as another opportunity to recognize that our grantee partners who lead frontline, on-the-ground work to improve community health are the true leaders in health equity efforts.”

“We are so appreciative of this donation from MacKenzie Scott—a landmark moment in our 20 years of service to the community,” said Health Foundation President Nora OBrien-Suric, PhD. “We all deserve to live in healthy, thriving communities and have the same opportunities for good health. But tackling the system-level causes of unequal health outcomes—including barriers to quality, affordable health care and other social determinants of health—is important and urgent work that warrants significant investment. These funds will bolster our ability to partner with the community in developing and advocating for long-term solutions to the many inequities that drive health disparities.”

While the Health Foundation’s mission to improve the health of the community has remained steadfast since its founding in 2002, the organization embarked on a more focused vision of racial and socioeconomic health equity in early 2020.

That vision was determined by the Health Foundation’s Board of Trustees in recognition of vast systemic inequities that have a disproportionate impact on the health outcomes of people in western and central New York based on race, geography, and income.

For example, in Buffalo, three out of five Black people die prematurely, twice the rate of their white counterparts. In Onondaga County, the rates are similar, and Black people in the county were hospitalized for COVID-19 at almost three times the rate of white residents during the height of the pandemic. In the region’s rural areas, the rates of uninsured people are some of the highest in the state, and most of those counties are facing critical shortages of health care providers.

Some previous examples of the Health Foundation’s strategic approach to health equity include: supporting age-friendly initiatives to create communities where older adults and people of all ages can thrive; expanding the availability of trauma-informed care for children and older adults; improving access to quality maternal health care; strengthening the capacity of community-based organizations and their ability to work with health systems; and advocating for legislative and regulatory improvements to make high quality, affordable health care available to all people.

The Health Foundation serves 16 counties: Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, Genesee, Niagara, Orleans and Wyoming counties in western New York, as well as Cayuga, Cortland, Herkimer, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and Tompkins counties in central New York.

The Health Foundation for Western & Central New York is an independent private foundation that advocates for continuous improvement in health and health care for the people and communities of western and central New York. The Health Foundation’s vision is a healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity are prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes. For more information, please visit