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Aetna President Karen S. Lynch talks humanizing health care at Forbes Women’s Summit

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Speaking at the Forbes Women’s Summit on a panel called the “Power of Business: The Way Forward,” Aetna President Karen S. Lynch emphasized the need to humanize health care and the role it plays in Aetna’s efforts to be a socially-minded health company.

“Health for all of us is personal.” Lynch told the New York audience comprised of women leaders from business, entertainment and politics.  “We created 120 urban gardens across the country to help provide access to fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s important for us to have that social connection and help improve the health of people in the communities across the U.S.”

Aetna President Karen S. Lynch, center, speaks on a panel at the Forbes Women's Summit. Aetna President Karen S. Lynch, center, speaks on a panel at the Forbes Women’s Summit.

Aetna is dedicated to working with communities to implement unique solutions that will improve health at the local level.  In 2016, the company announced the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge and fifty finalists are working to make measurable improvements to the addressable determinants of health. The challenge, which is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, will award $1.5 million in prizes.

“We need to meet people where they live and work – at a local community level,” Lynch said.  “We’re working with care managers in the community, partnering with local organizations to understand and improve all underlying health risks – things like environment, behavior and social and financial factors – to enable people to achieve their personal health ambitions.”

Aetna President Karen S. Lynch, center, participates in a panel at the Forbes Women's Summit. Aetna President Karen S. Lynch, center, participates in a panel at the Forbes Women’s Summit.

Lynch also spoke about the influence that businesses have in leading and enacting change.

“There is also a powerful connection between the personal well-being of our employees and our ability to serve our customers,” Lynch said. “Delivering on our mission begins with an investment in our people – it starts from within.  And businesses have an opportunity to lead in that change.”

In 2015, Aetna launched its “Social Compact.” Since then, the company increased the minimum wage in the U.S. from $12 to $16, instituted an Enhanced Benefits Program and started a student loan repayment program. The changes have affected thousands of Aetna associates in the U.S.