It takes a healthy dose of community spirit to build a healthy community. And at Aetna, that spirit is more than just a phrase — it’s a company-wide state of mind. Whether it’s employees who channel their own experiences to improve others’ health journeys, the work of our corporate foundation in improving community health, or the thousands of hours that our workforce spends every year volunteering their time, we see community service as a key part of our mission to build a healthier world.
Here are just a few examples of how Aetna and its employees live that mission every day. Learn more about Aetna’s community building efforts in the video and stories below, and read more about Aetna’s work in communities across the country at The Aetna Story 2015.
Helping new communities help each other
Dan Tedesco, a senior director and counsel for Aetna’s Procurement department, knows just how vital it is to have healthy communities. In raising a 10-year-old son with autism, he saw that many patients and family members would benefit from greater community support. He also knew he was uniquely positioned to do something about it.
Tedesco had an idea that Aetna’s huge pool of member data could be used to match individuals with similar clinical issues and preferences. He took his idea of bringing together families living with autism to the Aetna Idea Incubation Challenge, a company brainstorming contest. It was selected for development by Aetna Innovation Labs. The CarePal pilot program was launched in October 2014, initially for the breast cancer community.
CarePal today reviews data to bring together newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with survivors of the disease. By telephone and email, breast cancer survivors help ease the strain on new patients by helping them sort through a variety of issues, such as health questions and family matters. An expanded CarePal pilot is expected to help families living with autism in the future.
“Aetna members have a lot of personal knowledge and insight to share,” he said. “Members who are facing the same challenge for the first time can be guided and encouraged by a credible, truly empathetic mentor.”
Together, Tedesco and Aetna helped a community come together where none existed before.
Making underserved communities healthier through digital solutions
The communities most often underserved by health care resources because of race and ethnicity also own and use mobile phones at higher rates compared with white Americans. The Aetna Foundation recognizes this as an important chance to make a difference.
In 2014, the Aetna Foundation launched the Healthier World Innovation Challenge. It’s part of a $5.7 million commitment through 2016 to bring digital health innovation to vulnerable communities. The Challenge makes up to $4.5 million available to six winners that demonstrate their solutions can reduce health disparities and improve health outcomes. These digital health solutions, in short, will need to reach targeted audiences where they spend their time. They must easily fit into their daily lives as well.
“This is an opportunity for better health management because we don’t just have our eye on the patient but on the community they come from,”Aetna Foundation President Garth Graham said.
“The traditional health care setting is very limited in what it can do in these communities. We look at the context of where people live. Then we look at what needs to be done so that people don’t tip over the edge to poor health. We are meeting people where they are to help them better manage their health, not just their disease. It’s powerful.”
Giving babies better beginnings
Aetna employees demonstrate an amazing spirit of giving, volunteering more than 420,000 hours of service in 2014. One cause inspiring such passion and commitment is the prevention of premature births and birth defects.
In fact, a community has come together in recent years within Aetna to help support the March of Dimes. It started with just a handful of employees working on a single project in Hartford. The group has grown to include employees in many Aetna locations across the country. Employees have raised about $750,000 for the March of Dimes in the past 12 years.
Debbie Della Valle, a business process manager for Human Resources, has been a key part of the team in Hartford. Teams in locations such as Hartford, Phoenix, Houston, and Harrisburg and Blue Bell, Pennsylvania organize and launch activities meant to engage employees in the fight against birth defects.
Aetna’s Community Relations and Urban Marketing organization helps to pay for projects ranging from walks and dinners to providing youngsters with laptops and children’s games. But most of the work is carried out by the volunteers. Della Valle was named the March of Dimes 2014 Connecticut Volunteer of the Year. Christi Lundeen, chief innovation officer for Aetna’s Mercy Care Plan, was named 2014 Volunteer of the Year by the March of Dimes Arizona chapter.
“We are glad for the opportunity to give back because this work is important to the communities we serve,” Della Valle said. “It’s not just about raising money but also making people aware. It’s about helping to give babies a better chance at a healthier life. That’s why we help fund important research and programs that help moms have healthy babies.”