The Health Section

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge has Midwest on the move

A healthy community means residents have easy access to food, recreation and affordable health care. Across the country, however, many cities and counties face various obstacles. Aetna is involved with a new partnership helping communities address numerous health challenges.

Fifty cities and counties were chosen as finalists in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. A partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), in collaboration with CEOs for Cities, the challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to communities that show measurable improvements in health indicators and social determinants of health.

Here are the finalists from the mid-western region of the United States:

Healthy Homes Des Moines — Des Moines, Iowa

Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa.

To address the issues of asthma and childhood exposure to secondhand smoke in their community, the Healthy Homes Des Moines project will work with low-income families to minimize asthma triggers and provide additional services tailored to each family.

Grow-Mobile and Health Oasis Caravan — DeKalb County, Illinois

Photo courtesy of DeKalb County, Illinois.

To fill a need for programs to help provide access to fresh, healthy foods, officials are creating the DeKalb County Community Gardens Grow-Mobile, a pop-up food market and education center. The vehicle will be used to travel to food deserts throughout the county.

Achieving Genuine Community Engagement— Kane County, Illinois

Many adults in Kane County consume fewer than five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Existing programs in the county will be reinvented to engage residents. Three community councils will also be created to represent residents’ voices and develop action plans to address health needs.

SSNREd Up! — Monroe County, Indiana

Building a Thriving Compassionate Community (BTCC) is made up of local stakeholders working to make improve the lives of children in Monroe County through new collaborations, programs and relationships. The group’s project, SSNREd Up!, will focus on policy, practice and environmental changes that allow children to grow up with safe, stable and nurturing relationships and environments.

Greater Lawrence Healthy Families Healthy Children— Lawrence, Indiana

Photo courtesy of Lawrence, Indiana.

Many children ages 5 and older in Lawrence have a poor diet and low levels of physical activity. The Greater Lawrence Healthy Families Healthy Children initiative will target Greater Lawrence, a diverse community outside of Indianapolis and aim to create a community space to help families make healthy choices.

Health Community Corridor — Wyandotte County, Kansas

Photo courtesy of Wyandotte County, Kansas.

Many people in Wyandotte County are reporting low or no leisure-time physical activity because of the area’s low walkability. Officials plan to build upon existing initiatives and create a “Safe Routes to Parks” program to allow more people to access the county’s outdoor spaces.

Ingham County Health Department Home Initiative — Ingham County, Michigan

Photo courtesy of Ingham County, Michigan.

The Ingham County Home Initiative will work with residents living in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded homes and property management staff to implement a smoke-free policy to reduce the exposure of children to secondhand smoke. Feedback sessions on the smoke-free policy, cessation services and support will be offered.

Healthy Homes — Independence, Missouri

The Independence Health Department is working to improve community health by reducing unintended exposure to second and third-hand smoke in multi-unit homes. Officials will monitor demographics and health behaviors, and surveys will be used to gather data

Photo courtesy of Independence, Missouri.

on housing demographics, tobacco history and secondhand smoke exposure.

Kansas City Youth and Family Violence Prevention Program — Kansas City, Missouri

The Violence Free KC Committee, along with the Prevention Institute, will work to create a plan and begin to change city-wide policy to help reduce the incidence of youth and domestic violence, as well as improve high school graduation rates for those

Photo courtesy of Kansas City, Missouri.

considered most at risk for being involved in violence.

Nebraska Healthy Food Retail Recognition — Dodge, Saunders and Washington Counties, Nebraska

Many residents in this area report having trouble accessing healthy food options. The Healthy Food Retail Recognition program will study the retail market and provide education to help residents find healthy food. The program will also work with retailers to make healthy foods more accessible through pricing strategies and promotions.

Breathe Free CLE — Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, Ohio

Photo courtesy of Cleveland, Ohio.

Nearly 36 percent of adults in Cleveland smoke and almost 25 percent of high school students use tobacco products. The program is addressing tobacco prevention and cessation by working with partners at the policy, community, organizational, interpersonal and personal levels to target both youth and adults and will increase awareness of the harms with smoking.

Health Works Franklin County — Franklin County, Ohio

Health Works Franklin County is working to integrate community safety, housing and economic development, environmental sustainability and human services systems into the public health system. A team will be created to develop policies and identify the largest health problems in the county. The team will also be responsible for providing resources to help communities and agencies focus their efforts on areas of the greatest need.

Read more about the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge finalists in the Southwest, SoutheastWest and Northeast.