Aetna Foundation Backs New LISC Initiatives Tackling Childhood Obesity In Chicago, Philadelphia And Washington, D.C.

Sep 12 2012
Dateline City:

New programs mark LISC’s stepped up support for healthy living initiatives to help strengthen distressed neighborhoods

With a $120,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) is broadening its work revitalizing troubled city neighborhoods with community programs that promote healthy living and fight childhood obesity.

LISC is expanding programs in Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in collaboration with local community-based organizations, to improve low-income families’ access to healthy food, promote better nutrition and encourage physical activity to help them lead healthier lives. The programs will work with local schools to reach children at higher risk of obesity and obesity-related diseases.

“Childhood is a critical period for developing a predisposition to lifelong obesity,” said Sharon Dalton, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of its regional grant making. “Data show that upwards of three-quarters of obese children become obese adults. Obesity’s impact on overall health can be devastating. By reaching out to at-risk children, especially at an early age, LISC’s new efforts have great potential to help children in these three cities enjoy good health throughout their lives.”

The healthy living and obesity prevention programs are part of LISC’s Building Sustainable Communities strategy to help distressed neighborhoods become good places to live, work, do business and raise families. Since 1980, LISC has invested $12 billion in affordable housing, economic development, health and safety, education and jobs for low-income families.

With the Aetna Foundation funding, LISC will offer programs that respond to specific local needs and build on health and wellness resources already in place.

  • In Chicago, after-school nutrition education and urban gardening programs will be offered to middle-school children in two high-poverty schools that are part of Elev8, a LISC-managed initiative that provides school-based health care and other services to students, their families and neighboring residents. The programs will focus on helping kids already battling obesity adopt healthier lifestyles.
  • In Philadelphia, LISC will expand its support of a more sustainable food system in the struggling West Philadelphia neighborhood, where the organization has been working to create businesses and jobs, and improve housing and education. LISC will help fund a business incubator for food enterprises, youth-based community gardens and advocacy around healthy food in public schools.
  • In Washington, D.C., LISC will bring Fit Family, Jr., a fitness, nutrition and wellness program, to preschool children, their parents and teachers in the Parkside-Kenilworth neighborhood in the Northeast section of the city. The goal is to prevent and decrease obesity in preschoolers by promoting healthy eating habits and physical activity in school and at home. This effort is an expansion of LISC’s investment in the D.C. Promise Neighborhood Initiative, a comprehensive program to improve educational opportunities in the low-income community.

“Childhood obesity numbers are staggering and frightening in their implications,” said Michael Rubinger, LISC president and CEO, pointing to high rates of heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other conditions in impoverished neighborhoods.

“No matter how much we invest in new housing and businesses, no matter how successful we are in expanding job access or improving crumbling schools, we can’t help low-income families move forward if we can’t help them live healthier. This new relationship with the Aetna Foundation means we can have a lifelong impact on these kids as they grow into thriving adults.”

Reversing the obesity epidemic is one of the Aetna Foundation’s three program areas, along with promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care and advancing integrated and coordinated health care. In 2011, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation awarded $4.7 million in grants and sponsorships to fight obesity, including programs to make fresh fruits and vegetables available in food deserts.

About Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $413 million in grants and sponsorships, including $19.2 million awarded in 2011. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered more than 2.6 million hours since 2003. Our current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the United States; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit

About LISC
LISC combines corporate, government and philanthropic resources to help nonprofit community development corporations revitalize distressed neighborhoods. Since 1980, LISC has raised $12 billion to build or rehab 289,000 affordable homes and develop 46 million square feet of retail, community and educational space nationwide. LISC support has leveraged nearly $40 billion in total development activity. For more information, visit