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Larry Merlo at National Press Club: Improving Health Community By Community

January 22, 2019 | Community

Larry Merlo, President and Chief Executive Officer for CVS Health, recently addressed the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to discuss how the combination of CVS Health and Aetna has the power to enhance the way consumers engage with their health care locally and improve public health outcomes.

As we approach a new year in health care, Merlo urged attendees to think beyond their personal health resolutions for 2019 and imagine how we can work to build healthier communities – a key focus of the CVS Health and Aetna combination.

Improving Community Health

Across the United States, there are communities where your zip code matters more than your genetic code when it comes to health. For example, Merlo highlighted how Atlanta life expectancy can differ by a decade on opposite sides of the interstate. Both CVS Health and Aetna have a deep legacy of investing in communities to help address health disparities and improve public health.

During his address, Merlo announced the company’s new Building Healthier Communities initiative – a five-year, $100 million commitment to support not-for-profit programs. This effort will provide expanded access to free health screenings, more funding to tackle public health challenges, including tobacco and opioid use, and additional investments to address social and environmental factors. Furthermore, this initiative will build on the long-standing commitments of both CVS Health and Aetna to employee volunteer programs and partnerships with local and national community organizations.


“We will bring the energy and enthusiasm of CVS Health colleagues to deliver more volunteer hours to important community initiatives,” said Merlo. “And for national and local nonprofit partners, we will bring data, know-how and actions that make health care better at the community level.”

Humanizing Care

Our health care system was built to emphasize one-off, episodic treatments for patients instead of preventing or managing disease. As a result, consumers are currently left to navigate a complex health care system on their own. Each year, up to $300 billion of health care spending is due to ineffective coordination of medications and overall disjointed care.

Merlo highlighted the importance of human interaction with providers to better coordinate care and ensure that consumers have the right tools and services to manage their conditions.


With more than four million Americans visiting a CVS Pharmacy every day, we are uniquely positioned to serve as the new front door to health care. According to Merlo, the newly-combined company provides additional assets that help engage consumers with the care they need, when and where they need it – delivering personal connections with pharmacists, nurse practitioners and others who can walk shoulder to shoulder down the path to better health, along with digital options for those who prefer to access care in the palm of their hand.