The Aetna Foundation Awards More Than $2.4 Million in Grants to Help Improve Health in Communities Nationwide

Nov 13 2018
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WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As part of its continued commitment to address social determinants of health (SDOH), the Aetna Foundation today announced it has awarded more than $2.4 million in grants to 25 nonprofits across the U.S. as part of its larger Building Healthy Communities initiative. The funding was announced today by Aetna Foundation President, Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, in Washington, D.C. at The Equity of Health, an event held in conjunction with The Atlantic Festival.

The Aetna Foundation’s support is happening at a critical time when the medical community is placing greater emphasis on SDOH. A person’s genetic makeup only accounts for 30 percent of their overall health, while factors outside the doctor’s office such as access to economic opportunities, healthy food options, and safe spaces influence as much as 60 percent of an individual’s health1.

Increasing Access to Healthy Foods at School & at Home

Among these awards are two grants to support access to nutritious meals in vulnerable populations. Meals on Wheels America has been awarded a $174,000 grant to provide adequate nutrition for seniors at risk of malnutrition following hospitalization. In addition, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign has been awarded a $225,000 grant to increase access to free school breakfasts for 10,000 students in Texas and Florida schools.

Insufficient access to nutrition is linked to poor health and social outcomes. Childhood food insecurity, which affects 1 in 6 children2 nationally, has been linked to increased hospitalizations, stunted development, and reduced test scores in school3. Additionally, inadequate food access affects 1 in 12 seniors4 nationally. Food insecure seniors are 78 percent more likely to experience depression4 and have greater use of healthcare services and related costs5.

Supporting Community Impact

Also included in this year’s awards are 23 grants totaling more than $2 million made through the Cultivating Healthy Communities (CHC) initiative, which directly support resident-driven projects focused on making measurable improvements in the health outcomes of communities. The grants are being made at a time when low-income, nonwhite communities are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes6, and more than half of all avoidable deaths in the U.S. are caused by behavior factors7, which are directly shaped by SDOH.

“We know there’s no single solution to building a healthy community,” said Karen Lynch, a member of the Board of the Directors for the Aetna Foundation and President of Aetna. “In order to make a real, lasting impact, we must empower the organizations on the ground, who understand the unique needs and challenges of that community, with the tools they need to create and implement local solutions.”

This year, CHC funding is focused on projects in which residents have a lead role in designing and implementing the activities. Youth empowerment is a specific priority, with more than $800,000 awarded to projects that will mobilize youth leaders to address community health concerns. In addition, awards totaling more than $750,000 have been designated for projects that seek to promote health through changes to local policy.

Since 2016, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more $6 million in grants through the CHC program, which is a cornerstone of their multimillion-dollar commitment to Building Healthy Communities.

This year, grants have been awarded to the following projects:



State Served Summary

School District

$100,000 Arizona The Orchard Community Learning Center, in partnership with a nearbyelementary school, will work with students to expand hours at astudent-run restaurant that provides healthy food options for thecommunity, business skills for the students, and supports a localfood system that also includes an urban farm and the schoolcafeteria.

Indian Museum
& Cultural

$100,000 California A youth-led social enterprise will address diet-related healthdisparities in Sonoma County’s Native communities while educatingNative people and other consumers about the health benefits oftraditional foods by producing and selling acorn-based food productsin existing healthy food retail spaces.


$100,000 Connecticut Teenage leaders will improve public safety in their community byidentifying and documenting safety concerns, working with the localpolice department to address the issues they identify, and hostingcommunity events to share their work with the community.

The Children’s
Home, Inc.

$100,000 Florida Grandparent caregivers struggling with poverty and poor health willlearn skills to improve both their and their grandchildren’swell-being through a peer-supported, self-management approach thataddresses diet, physical activity, and stress management.

Healthy Babies
Coalition of
County, Inc.

$100,000 Florida Broward County residents will work with community centers andlibraries to improve maternal/child health outcomes during pregnancyby providing women and their families with free indoor fitnessactivities, nutrition education, and stress management classes.

Urban Health

$100,000 Florida Urban Health Partnerships and local nonprofit partners will workclosely with older residents to achieve policy changes that createsocial and built environments that meet the needs of older adults.

Association Inc

$60,000 Florida Three charter schools serving low-income populations will improvethe health of students and their families through organized physicalactivity, access to community gardens, and education on stressreduction techniques.

Activity And
Nutrition To

$93,000 Florida A student advisory council will improve health of peers and theirfamilies by working with school officials and community partners toimplement new health services and policies in two Broward Countyschools.

Soccer In The
Streets Inc

$100,000 Georgia Soccer in the Streets will make soccer accessible for youth andadults throughout Atlanta by creating fields at transit stations andproviding recreational and competitive leagues, eliminating barriersof transportation and cost for underserved youth.

Law & Policy
Center Of The

$100,000 Illinois The Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest and localcommunity groups will reduce levels of pollution that can causeasthma and other illnesses by engaging residents to monitor airquality and developing an air quality data platform to build publicsupport for improved air quality.

Beautiful Inc

$50,000 Indiana Keep Indianapolis Beautiful will help neighborhood groups eliminateblight and create community gathering spaces by providing suppliesand support to transform vacant lots into resident-designed pocketparks.

La Comunidad

$50,000 Massachusetts La Comunidad will improve address high stress levels amongimmigrants in Everett, MA, by training interpreters and storytellerswho will work with residents and police to craft community policingstrategies that address residents’ most pressing safety concerns.


$100,000 Michigan FoodLab Detroit will work to strengthen Detroit’s regional foodeconomy by providing over 200 local entrepreneurs with hands-oneducation, resources, and opportunities for community learning tosupport their work distributing, processing, and selling healthyfood.

Foundation Inc

$71,000 North Carolina

Youth participants will increase utilization of active transportation options through a design process aimed at improving residents’ access to bicycles.

National PTA $91,615 North Carolina National PTA will help students and parents at three schools makehealthier food choices through improved school menu options, familyfood tastings of healthy options, and sample kits to help familiestry new foods at home.

Charlotte Inc

$65,000 North Carolina Residents of two low-income Charlotte neighborhoods will improvebicycle and pedestrian access to transit infrastructure by workingwith elected officials and their neighbors to advance transportationimprovements.

Walnut Hills
Foundation Inc

$100,000 Ohio Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will increase food access andcreate opportunities for food entrepreneurs by developing unusedspace into a multifunctional food hub.


$80,000 Pennsylvania Grounded Strategies will support youth and residents in twoPennsylvania towns in reducing blight and improving theircommunity’s access to green spaces by equipping participants withthe skills, resources, and tools to redevelop vacant lots intocommunity assets.
The Food Trust $100,000 Pennsylvania Youth leaders will increase access to healthy foods in Philadelphiaby working with corner store owners to stock and promote healthyfood choices and working with schools to host farm stands.

Air Alliance

$100,000.00 Texas Air Alliance Houston will reduce exposure to traffic-related airpollutants and increase physical activity among children at fourschool campuses by implementing activities that encourage activetransit and reduce personal vehicle use and school bus idling.

Houston Health

$89,885 Texas Houston Health Foundation will promote food access and well-beingamong immigrant populations by supporting youth in developing anurban agriculture enterprise that produces and sells native crops.

Fit4Kids, Inc

$80,000 Virginia Fit4Kids will increase opportunities for health for students bytraining youth, parents, and organizational partners to addresssystem and policy issues, such as ensuring daily recess and reducingsugar content in school breakfasts.

Core-El Centro

$75,000 Wisconsin An action board of Latina residents will improve public safety andbuild trust and communication between residents and the MilwaukeePolice Department by acting as a liaison between their community andpolice and providing community events to share information andfoster understanding.


1 – Kaiser Family Foundation, “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity”

2 – United States Department of Agriculture, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2017”

3—RTI, “Hunger and Food Insecurity in America: A Review of Current Research”

4 – Feeding America, “The State of Senior Hunger and Health in America”

5— Meals on Wheels America “Hunger in Older Adults – Opportunities and Challenges for the Aging Services Network”

6 – NCBI, “Sociodemographic Patterns of Chronic Disease”

7 – NCBI, “Measuring the Risks and Causes of Premature Death: Summary of Workshops”

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET). 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 volunteered 520,000 hours in 2017 alone. For more information, visit


Media Contact:
Ethan Slavin, 860-273-6095
BRG Communications
Katy Frame, 703-739-8358

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