Leaders of Health-Social Enterprises Share Wisdom of Creating an Equitable, Healthy Way Forward for Underserved Communities

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Laura Coy, Dr. Stacy Lindau, and Rachel Kohler
Laura Coy (top left), William Blair's head of philanthropy strategy and ESG integration, moderated A Health Way Forward talk with Dr. Stacy Lindau and Rachel Kohler (bottom center), leaders of health-social enterprises NowPow and MAPSCorps.

Social entrepreneurs Dr. Stacy Lindau and Rachel Kohler, during a virtual conversation with William Blair clients on October 14, shared their amazing story of creating and scaling two health organizations on the South Side of Chicago to drive equity across whole communities.

They lead NowPow, a company at the forefront of digital innovation in healthcare, and MAPSCorps, a community asset mapping organization that hires and trains youth to collect data. Both technology start-ups, created to connect health and social services, were spun out of the University of Chicago and are based on the South Side.

“We put both of these companies on the South Side of Chicago—returning value directly to the communities where the ideas were created,” Lindau told William Blair clients during the firm’s third A Healthy Way Forward talk. “NowPow and MAPSCorps proved you can headquarter nationally impactful businesses on the South Side of Chicago.”

A Healthy Way Forward Series

William Blair introduced its A Healthy Way Forward client event series in 2021 to provide a forum addressing multiple aspects of health: physical, fiscal, and psychological. 

Lindau, NowPow’s founder and chief innovation officer, is a practicing physician and a tenured professor and research scientist at the University of Chicago focused on women’s health. NowPow was launched in 2015 with the support of a $5.8 million award from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Lindau also serves as president of MAPSCorps, a William Blair community partner.

Businesses and organizations including NowPow use MAPSCorps data to provide better health and social services to residents living in high-poverty neighborhoods where vital resources are hard to find.

Kohler, CEO of NowPow, has more than 30 years of business experience, spanning investment banking, management consulting, and general management including work with her family’s business, Kohler Manufacturing. Kohler was instrumental in the rapid growth of NowPow, a personalized community referral platform that health systems, payers, and other organizations use to connect patients to needed community resources so they can better manage their health, meeting needs like food insecurity, prescription fulfillment, transportation, and social services.

Pandemic Spotlights Need

Kohler says the pandemic underscored the need for technology-driven solutions focused on reducing inequities and improving health.

Coming into the pandemic, NowPow was in 16 states with the largest customer base in states hit hardest early by the pandemic—New York, New Jersey, and Illinois, Kohler says. In New York, for example, NowPow was supporting some of the biggest health systems and plans in the country, including New York City Health and Hospitals, Northwell, and Healthfirst.

“They were under siege,” Kohler says. “They had hundreds of thousands of patients out of work and with needs far beyond healthcare. We were on daily calls with our customers to understand how best to serve them and their populations.”

NowPow created special screening tools so health providers could quickly determine the needs of patients and automatically generate highly matched referrals, sharing that information with them via text, email or print in more than 100 languages. Kohler says she was most excited that NowPow’s data could pinpoint where much-needed supplies like food were not meeting the needs of communities.

“For us, the pandemic really validated the work we do,” Kohler adds. “From there we supercharged it, which led to everyone recognizing the rising need and wanting to fund and resource this kind of work.”

Unite Us Acquires NowPow

NowPow is now in 24 states. And, just last month it was acquired by Unite Us, another leading company in the community resource referral platform market.

“The sale of NowPow to a commercial market competitor is proof that a business built on social impact and mission has value in the real commercial marketplace,” Lindau says.

“Nobody can debate that now,” she adds. “Our exit should pave the way for others to have the courage to build a business on mission and values.”

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