The Health Section

U.S. News/Aetna Foundation Healthiest Communities: recognizing communities that are improving health

U.S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation announced the “U.S. News/Aetna Foundation Healthiest Communities” project on Wednesday. The project will showcase communities in America that are doing the best job of improving residents’ health through partnerships, expanded public health assessments and various education programs.

“Our mission is to promote wellness, health and access to high-quality care for everyone,” said Aetna Chairman and CEO Mark T. Bertolini. “Working with U.S. News on the Healthiest Communities project will allow us to shine a light on communities and the steps they are taking to improve the health of individuals and families. More than measurement of programs at the federal or even state level, this type of locally-focused project can accelerate change in the way communities think about and pursue improvements in public health.”

The project was announced at the fifth annual Healthcare of Tomorrow summit in Washington, D.C. It features a ranking drawn from evaluating over 3,000 counties in 10 categories: community vitality, equity, economy, education, environment, food and agriculture, health care, housing, public safety and infrastructure.

News analysis, in-depth reporting and data will be made available in 2018 on U.S. News & World Report’s website.

“With the Healthiest Communities platform, U.S. News brings nearly three decades of experience measuring health care quality in the U.S. to holistically examine the relationship between public health initiatives and community health,” said Brian Kelly, editor and chief content officer of U.S. News. “We are delighted to announce this new endeavor at our Healthcare of Tomorrow forum alongside some of the nation’s top health care leaders. We hope our joint project can steer change in the way communities consider improving the well-being and equity of their citizens.”

Reorganize health care, focusing locally

Bertolini was interviewed by Kelly during the Healthcare of Tomorrow summit. He spoke about Aetna’s efforts to provide greater access to care in the community and in the home, including its collaboration with Meals on Wheels America, the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, the Healthiest Communities project and the Cultivating Healthy Communities grants.

“We want to reorganize health care and do as much in the home as possible,” Bertolini told Kelly. “If you are in a hospital, that means we failed you.”

Bertolini explained that a person’s zip code affects their health more than their genetic code. And that the health care system needs to be proactive and work at a local level to help people get and stay healthy.

“What we really need to do is understand what people’s ambitions are for their health,” he said. “… It’s not about population health – it’s about personal health.”

Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation, also participated in a panel discussion on at the summit called, “Building Healthy Communities.” Graham, who wrote an article on the importance and effectiveness of attacking health issues locally, said all health care is local and “the most impactful thing you can do to improve community health is to improve the local education system.”

“Most health care starts locally – in the community and in the home,” Graham said.

Improving health at a local level will take a collaborative effort, Graham added.

“There is not a single owner of health care. We have to work together to improve health outcomes.”