Where’s the best place to learn how to stay healthy? Some might say it’s the doctor’s office. But we see the most success when people start to address health problems where they begin – in the home, at school and in the neighborhoods where they live and work.
As a physician and as president of the Aetna Foundation, I have the privilege of helping people make smart decisions to change their lives for the better. At the Foundation it is our mission to promote wellness, health and high quality health care for everyone, while supporting the communities we serve. In 2014 we worked diligently to fulfill this mission in local communities from coast to coast through our GoLocal: Cultivating Healthy Communities grant program.
In Seattle, WA, we support the FEEST Dinner Program that helps at-risk high school students create and share meals as a way to foster a dialogue about food insecurity, social justice, cultural expression and community development. Students meet after school, working with a guest chef to share family and cultural traditions and prepare healthy dinners using fresh local produce. Students then share their experiences with friends through social media.
We are helping refugees from around the world in Clarkston, GA, through the Food Security Initiative to help them adapt to choosing, accessing and preparing food in the United States. This program includes a food pantry option for participants to learn how to grocery shop, a food co-op where participants work in exchange for produce and learn employment skills, a farmer’s market, community gardening and nutrition education programming.
Throughout the state of New Jersey, we are helping elementary school children make healthier choices through the Jump with Jill Initiative. Original, upbeat hip hop and pop music is used to change kids’ perceptions of healthy foods. The kids participate in interactive dancing and singing activities with healthy food-themed characters where messages are reinforced that developing healthy habits is not just an important thing to do, but the cool thing to do as well.
We are also partnering with GirlTrek, an organization that engages African American women and girls in walking campaigns based on topics ranging from faith to African-American history, to make fitness inspiring and relevant. Our grant is helping GirlTrek expand its Philadelphia programming to ultimately recruit 1,000 active walkers.
Through grant partnerships with organizations like these, we are building a better world, community by community. From working with elementary-aged children just starting to learn about making healthy decisions, to adults rebuilding their lives in a new country, we are committed to our mission to promote wellness, health and access for everyone.