Fifty Cities and Counties Accept Challenge to Improve Community Health in Bid for $1.5 Million in Prizes

Nov 13 2018
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The Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association and National Association of Counties Announce Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Finalists

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Despite spending more on health care than any other country in the world, Americans live shorter, less healthy lives than our counterparts in other high-income nations. While this is a national problem, our local communities are where we have the power to influence our health more than ever before.

To help improve our health through our communities, the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) today recognized the HealthyCommunity50 that will move on to compete for the grand prize in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. These select cities and counties will receive a $10,000 community seed award to implement a program able to show measurable improvements around key social determinants of health.

“Approximately 90 percent of the factors affecting risk of premature death exist outside of a doctor’s office or hospital,” said Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna chairman and CEO. “The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge supports communities that are working to address and improve these factors and build a healthier world, community by community.”

The Challenge, a partnership between The Aetna Foundation, APHA and NACo, in collaboration with CEOs for Cities, is designed to create economically competitive, inclusive and equitable communities. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities and counties that are able to show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships.

The Challenge is designed so that participants share successful health improvement strategies that can be scaled and replicated by other communities. HealthyCommunity50 members will share experiences and best practices throughout the competition via a learning network.

The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities. An expert advisory board selected these groups to continue to the next phase of the Challenge based on plans to improve the health of their communities. Improvements will be measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures.

“We know that efforts to address these social determinants of health are necessary to create health equity, and that’s why we’re so excited for our 50 cities, counties and tribes,” said APHA executive director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “Their innovative work is leading to better health in their own world and beyond.”

An expert panel will conduct site visits to all HealthyCommunity50 members to understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 – $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other.

“Local governments drive health improvements, and counties have developed innovative approaches to transform the health of communities across the nation,” said NACo President Bryan Desloge. “County leaders are learning by example and putting best practices into action. We’re excited about participating in the HealthyCommunity50 and look forward to applying the lessons learned to promote healthy communities in counties across the nation.”

The HealthyCommunity50 are:

Name of Lead Organization     State Served    

Program Goal

Anchorage Park Foundation     Alaska     Increase outdoor physical activity
City of Avondale     Arizona     Increase access to recreational programs
County of San Diego     California     Increase health equity
City of Perris     California     Increase access to healthy foods
Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.     Connecticut     Increase health equity
New Haven Health Department     Connecticut     Decrease childhood asthma
City of Miami     Florida     Increase health care access
Florida Department of Health     Florida     Decrease food inequality
City of St. Petersburg     Florida     Increase access, availability and procurement of healthy foods
Hillsborough County MPO     Florida     Increase access to healthy foods
Healthy Savannah     Georgia     Increase healthy eating and health equity
Polk County Housing Trust Fund     Iowa     Decrease childhood asthma
DeKalb County Community Gardens     Illinois     Increase access to healthy foods
Kane County Health Department     Illinois     Increase community engagement
Building a Thriving Compassionate Community (BTCC)     Indiana     Increase children’s health conditions
Jump IN for Healthy Kids     Indiana     Decrease childhood obesity
Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government     Kentucky     Increase mental wellness and healthy behaviors
Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City     Kansas     Increase walkability
Metropolitan Area Planning Council     Massachusetts     Increase walkability and bikeability
Baltimore City Health Department     Maryland     Increase physical activity
Ingham County Health Department     Michigan     Increase smoke-free living
Independence Health Department     Missouri     Decrease tobacco exposure in housing units
City of Kansas City Missouri Health Department     Missouri     Decrease youth and domestic violence rates
Mississippi State University: Gulfport     Mississippi     Increase healthy food choices in youth
Chatham County Public Health Department     North Carolina     Decrease obesity
Davidson County     North Carolina     Increase healthy eating and physical activity
Duke University: Durham and Cabarrus Counties     North Carolina     Increase health equity
Mecklenburg County Health Department     North Carolina     Decrease heart disease
University of Nebraska Board of Regents: Dodge, Saunders andWashington Counties     Nebraska     Increase healthy eating and health equity
City of Jersey City     New Jersey     Increase healthy behaviors to decrease violence
Coopers Ferry Partnership     New Jersey     Increase water quality
Sandoval Health Collaborative     New Mexico     Increase family nutrition and physical activity
Dutchess County Government     New York     Increase healthy living and employment opportunities
Union Community Health Center     New York     Decrease obesity
Cleveland Department of Public Health     Ohio     Decrease tobacco use in youth and adults
Franklin County Public Health     Ohio     Increase comprehensive healthy living
Tulsa City-County Health Department     Oklahoma     Increase access to healthy foods
Chester County     Pennsylvania     Increasing walking
Crispus Attucks Association, York County     Pennsylvania     Increase healthy housing
Allentown Health Bureau     Pennsylvania     Increase physical activity
Blair County Planning Commission     Pennsylvania     Increase community development
Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at the Miriam Hospital     Rhode Island     Decrease prison re-entry
Mary Black Foundation, Inc.     South Carolina     Decrease obesity in schools and the community
City of Brownsville     Texas     Increase access to community gardens
Waco-McLennan County Public Health District     Texas     Increase access to, and consumption of, fresh foods
Wichita County Public Health District     Texas     Decrease childhood obesity
Danville Pittsylvania County United Fund     Virginia     Increase healthy living
Lenowisco Health District     Virginia     Increase healthy living
Thurston County Public Health & Social Services     Washington     Increase walkability
West Virginia University, Morgantown     West Virginia     Increase mental wellness

For more information, visit and join the conversation at #HealthiestCitiesChallenge.

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET). Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. 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 3.8 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit .

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, share the latest research and information, promote best practices and advocate for public health issues and policies grounded in research. We are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at .

The National Association of Counties (NACo) unites America’s 3,069 county governments. Founded in 1935, NACo brings county officials together to advocate with a collective voice on national policy, exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public’s understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service. For more information, visit .



American Public Health Association
Daniel Greenberg, 202-777-3913
BRG Communications
Maureen Salazar, 703-736-8366

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