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Aetna Foundation’s ‘Spotlight Award’: 10 programs improving community health

January 31, 2018 | Community


Ten U.S. community health programs participating in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge received the Aetna Foundation’s “Spotlight Award.” The awardees will receive a $25,000 prize to further support their programs, which will help build sustainable models that can be used in other communities.

“Where a person lives has a profound impact on how they live – particularly when it comes to their health,” said Mark T. Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and chairman and CEO of Aetna. “The Spotlight Award recipients are outstanding examples of how important progress can be made when communities work together to look at the biggest issues facing their neighborhoods and develop healthy, home-grown solutions.”

The Spotlight Awards highlight the early success stories from participants that have demonstrated significant progress since the launch of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge.

“Communities invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being, often serving as a safety net for low-income and vulnerable residents,” said Roy Charles Brooks, president of the National Association of Counties. “We know just as each community is unique, so too are the health challenges they face. These award winners are examples of what can be achieved when counties work with community partners to solve serious, complex public health issues.”

In addition, five community health programs were recognized as Honorable Mention awardees and will receive a $10,000 prize to advance their work. The programs are a part of the Healthy50 — the 50 finalists in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, which 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.

“Since the Challenge launched, we have seen numerous improvements and advancements in the health of the 50 participating communities,” said Georges C. Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association. “The Spotlight Awards are a moment to showcase the innovative work being done in cities and counties to address social determinants of health.”


Spotlight Award winners

Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity — Connecticut

Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity, a project designed to help residents of Bridgeport address the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in their community.

The East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone’s Pop-up Market leveraged its strategic community partnerships and made a concerted effort to include residents in the entire community engagement process. The process included job creation, types of job training programs and identifying small businesses for development training to improve access to healthy, affordable food in the East End community.

iGrow Food Network — Florida

Tallahassee Leon County is working to address pockets of food source inequality in Tallahassee and Leon County.

The iGrow Food Network is a culturally-competent youth empowerment and urban agriculture entrepreneurship program of the Tallahassee Food Network that leverages community partnerships to focus on education, outreach and community engagement to achieve food security in USDA-designated food deserts by increasing healthy food access.

Live Healthy Little Havana — Florida

Live Healthy Little Havana’s goal is to strengthen community capacity to collaboratively plan and collectively carryout strategies to improve health. Residents are addressing physical activity, primary care and improving the community’s walk score.

West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative — Kentucky

West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative Louisville Metro Government intends to build culture residents connect to nature to improve physical and mental health by increasing physical activity and reducing toxic stress, as well as increasing social cohesion to deter crime.

The West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative created multiple annual paths through its parks department and community partners. The paths allow youth ages 3 to 19 to engage with nature.

The SMART Initiative — New Jersey

The SMART Initiative will reduce the number of sewer overflows to improve water quality in waterways and green infrastructure with a robust focus on community input and guidance.

The Initiative reengages diverse residents through innovative community meetings, forums, large scale events and mobile applications to educate residents on the impact of combined sewer systems and green infrastructure.

Chatham Health Alliance — North Carolina

Chatham Health Alliance is implementing a multilevel initiative targeting obesity, the leading health issue identified in a 2014 Community Health Assessment.

The project leverages partnerships built between the Health Department, the Alliance and numerous stakeholders by embedding a Health in All Policies approach in the Chatham Country Comprehensive Plan, which sets the vision for the county over the next 25 years.

Village HeartBEAT — North Carolina

The Village HeartBEAT program is working to reduce the incidence of heart disease in the Public Health Priority Areas zip codes.

The program works in collaboration with all members of faith-based organizations and leaders to engage and ensure that everyone in Mecklenburg County enjoy good health, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, disability, age or socioeconomic status.

The Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition — Texas

The Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition is helping residents in three zip codes to more easily access and eat healthy foods by promoting current resources of fresh and locally grown food, hosting nutrition education sessions, and utilizing community health workers to connect residents to resources, as well as providing fresh produce delivery.

The Coalition partners with Waco area organizations to create awareness and access to the available fresh local produce by utilizing local vendors and resources, such as the Mobile Farmer’s Market.

Health Collaborative — Virginia

The Health Collaborative has created action teams in four areas: healthy eating, active living, access to health care and cross-cutting approaches.

The Health collaborative focuses on policies, systems and environmental change to support the creation of effective and inclusive policies. The Collaborative is providing access to food and opportunities for physical activity.

Active Design for a Healthier Thurston County — Washington

Thurston County addresses the need for better conditions to support physical activity in key county areas to increase access to and promotion of the trail system.

The project developed and applied web-based tools for data collection and display of information as part of the “walkshed” analysis, which measured the walkability around various locations. The analysis was aimed at boosting physical activity levels.

Honorable mentions

Food is Medicine — Florida

The Food is Medicine program aims to improve the health of people living in food deserts or low-income/low food access areas of St. Petersburg, Florida. The program offers residents access to low cost produce, increases educational opportunities and works to eliminate barriers to health.

The program uses a multifaceted approach to improve health behaviors and influence change. It uses education, community collaboration, biometric screenings and participant incentives. The program also offers evidence-based curriculum in areas such as wellness, nutrition, healthy cooking, budgeting for healthy eating, fitness, childhood obesity prevention, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

Be Well, B’More — Maryland

The goal of Be Well, B’More is to increase physical activity and promote activities unifying Baltimore residents in the city’s outdoor space across neighborhoods.

The program uses trusted local partners within the neighborhoods through new cross-sector collaborations. Community organizations, such as Girl Trek and health Freedom Inc., as well as media partners, such as WBAL and the Baltimore Sun, allowed the program’s reach to expand.

Blue Print for Violence Reduction — New Jersey

Jersey City, New Jersey, reclassified community violence as a health issue. The project aims to promote healthier behaviors as a strategy for reducing violence.

Organizations worked together to focus on improving youth health in new and engaging ways that include non-traditional activities, such as chess and yoga, and violence interruptions, including “Occupy the Block” events.

The North Carolina Healthiest Counties Cross-Sector Team — North Carolina

The North Carolina Healthiest Counties Cross-Sector Team seeks to improve population health, payment reform and health equity in both Cabarrus and Durham Counties by addressing nutrition/food insecurity, physical activity, tobacco use, integrating physical activity “prescriptions” into clinical care and piloting health care delivery and payment reform through community health workers.

The Durham County Health Department and its partners launched public policy changes to encourage greater utilization of Community Health Workers to improve the physical and financial health of the county to improve the physical and financial health of the county.

Walk Works ChesCo! — Pennsylvania

The program’s goal is to promote, educate and empower people to adopt a healthier lifestyle by encouraging residents to walk through the Walk Works ChesCo! Program.

The program reached out to a diverse group of partner organizations to promote the challenge to get community members engaged. The group was actively engaged in planning, implementing and participating in the Challenge. Walk Works routes were announced in Coatesville and Phoenixville.