For work to address the challenges experienced and disparities made apparent by the COVID-19 pandemic, Philanthropy Southwest announced that Episcopal Health Foundation is the winner of its first-ever Groundbreaker Award.

EHF president and CEO Elena Marks accepted the award at the Celebration of Philanthropy event at the end of Philanthropy Southwest’s 73rd annual conference in Oklahoma City.

The newly-created award is given to a member foundation initiative or project focusing on innovation and excellence during the year of the conference.

“EHF believes that our responsibilities as a foundation go beyond the work being accomplished within the walls of the organization,” Marks said. “We know we must be active thought partners and leaders in support of the needs of our communities and the advancement of the philanthropic sector as a whole.”

During COVID-19, EHF’s research team developed the first statewide survey on the health and economic impact of the pandemic in Texas. Findings revealed myriad factors determine how this crisis affects certain populations, including household income, race/ethnicity, and health insurance status. An updated EHF-sponsored study also revealed that significant pre-existing health differences among Black and Hispanic Texans led to higher death rates during the pandemic. According to the report, if Black and Hispanic residents in Texas had the same COVID-19 mortality rates as White residents, the number of total deaths in Texas would be reduced by a third. 

“We are hopeful that this research and our continued work to address the underlying, non-medical factors that lead to poor health will shed light on health disparities and lead to greater investment in addressing inequities in the future,” said Marks.

EHF’s also led the effort to create the Your Shot Texas project. To date, the statewide pooled philanthropic fund has raised more than $2.7 million to benefit organizations across the state working to raise vaccine confidence and increase access to vaccines among the groups most affected by COVID-19 — those most affected by the virus and historically-marginalized populations across the state. 

“While there is still so much to be done, EHF is proud to build on the work we’ve started and continue to fight for health equity in Texas. We are honored to receive this award in recognition of our programs and look forward to working alongside our partners at Philanthropy Southwest as we continue to address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marks.