Aetna Foundation’s work toward creating the Healthiest Communities

The Aetna Foundation is focused on building healthy communities through locally-based programs, dynamic collaborations and proven models that can help accelerate progress everywhere. Helping people live healthier lives and achieve their health goals is at the heart of the Foundation’s mission.

In the United States, research shows that a person’s zip code matters more than their genetic code when it comes to their health. Over the past several years, the Aetna Foundation has awarded various grants and launched innovative programs to tackle the social determinants of health – factors that impact a person’s life expectancy outside of the doctor’s office.

From Cultivating Healthy Communities grantees to Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge participants, the Aetna Foundation is providing support to organizations that are addressing local health issues with local solutions.

U.S. News & World Report and the Aetna Foundation announced on March 26 the Healthiest Communities rankings, a list of the 500 healthiest counties in the country. The rankings showcase communities in the U.S. that are doing the best job of improving residents’ health through partnerships, expanded public health assessments and various education programs.

Of the 500 ranked communities, 17 received Aetna Foundation support in the past two years through a Cultivating Healthy Community grant or as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge.

“The Aetna Foundation has had tremendous success with our own programs, but we know there is much more work that needs to be done,” said Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation. “The Healthiest Communities rankings will allow us to go beyond the community organizations that we support and showcase communities across America that are doing the best job of improving their citizens’ health through strategic partnerships, expanded public health assessments and various education programs.”

“Through this new program, we will allow communities to learn from each other, improve their efforts and help every community develop their own unique ‘healthy community’ agenda,” added Graham.

"The Aetna Foundation has had tremendous success with our own programs, but we know there is much more work that needs to be done."

Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, president of the Aetna Foundation


The Programs

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge launched in 2016. The Challenge is a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association, the National Association of Counties and is administered by CEOs for Cities. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to cities and counties that show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships.

“To improve the health of our communities, we need to understand the unique challenges they face,” said American Public Health Association Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “The Healthiest Communities rankings will provide the type of insight that communities need to create informed, data-driven solutions. We look forward to working with the Aetna Foundation to use this information to enhance our collaborative programs aimed at improving community health.”

“Through our collaborative work with the Aetna Foundation on the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, we have helped communities across the country pursue local solutions to local challenges,” said Roy Charles Brooks, president of the National Association of Counties and commissioner for Tarrant County, Texas. “The Healthiest Communities rankings help us enhance our efforts. Beyond celebrating counties that are improving residents’ well-being, the rankings also encourage the continued sharing of best practices that can address serious, complex public health issues.”

In 2017, 50 finalists of the Challenge were identified. In January 2018, 10 finalists received the Aetna Foundation’s “Spotlight Award” and five finalists received an Honorable Mention award.

The Cultivating Healthy Communities program began in 2016. Since then, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants. These grants support organizations working to address social determinants of health, such as improving green spaces and access to healthy food, as well as decreasing the exposure to air and water contaminants.


Highlighting a few 'Healthiest Communities'


Continued support to create healthier days

Several communities that the Aetna Foundation supported in the past two years did not make the Healthiest Communities rankings. Despite this, the communities are continuing to work to solve its respective issues affecting residents’ health and lives.