The Health Section

RAND to evaluate Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, identify ways to expand public health innovations

In collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, the RAND Corporation will develop a performance monitoring system to evaluate participants of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge on improving social determinants of health and to determine which projects can be replicated.

“Cities and counties have tremendous potential to serve as health hubs,” said Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H, president of the Aetna Foundation. “We are excited to see the 50 communities develop pilotable solutions for better health locally, and we look forward to collaborating with RAND in evaluating their
success and scalability.”

Waco-McLennan County, Texas: Improving nutrition habits by connecting residents to produce, education, and health workers.

Researchers from RAND will evaluate the progress of the 50 finalists, also known as the “HealthyCommunity50,” who are working on plans to create measurable improvements in social determinants of health.

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties. The challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to communities that show improvements in healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic contributors or environmental exposures in local communities.

The system will measure and track the impact of the finalists’ projects, as well as identify the most promising practices with potential for replication. The RAND Corporation will also assist finalists with technical assistance as they work on their own assessments.

Hillsborough County, Florida: Overcoming food deserts in Tampa by increasing the number of community gardens with easy pedestrian and bicycle access.

“This evaluation gives us the opportunity to learn what innovations are directly applicable to communities and help affect health equity and advance health goals,” said Malcom Williams, Ph.D., M.P.P., senior policy researcher and associate director of the behavioral and policy sciences department at RAND Corporation. “Through our work, we hope to use social scientific methods that will lead to outcomes that can be scaled and replicated nationwide.”

The system is being finalized for the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. After collecting and analyzing the data, RAND will work with the Aetna Foundation and its partners to release the findings.

“The ultimate goal is to take these learnings and use them to build a healthier world, community by community,” Graham said.

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