WASHINGTON — 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 health.Kaiser Family Foundation, “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity” https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/beyond-health-care-the-role-of-social-determinants-in-promoting-health-and-health-equity/
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 childrenUnited States Department of Agriculture, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2017” https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=90022 nationally, has been linked to increased hospitalizations, stunted development, and reduced test scores in school.RTI, “Hunger and Food Insecurity in America: A Review of Current Research” https://www.rti.org/sites/default/files/resources/full_hunger_report_final_07-24-14.pdf Additionally, inadequate food access affects 1 in 12 seniors nationally. Food insecure seniors are 78 percent more likely to experience depressionFeeding America, “The State of Senior Hunger and Health in America” http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/senior-hunger-research/state-of-senior-hunger-and-health-2015.pdf and have greater use of healthcare services and related costs.Meals on Wheels America “Hunger in Older Adults – Opportunities and Challenges for the Aging Services Network” https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/theissue/research/hunger-in-older-adults
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 diabetesNCBI, “Sociodemographic Patterns of Chronic Disease” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5171223/, and more than half of all avoidable deaths in the U.S. are caused by behavior factorsNCBI, “Measuring the Risks and Causes of Premature Death: Summary of Workshops” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25834864, 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:
Roosevelt School District – Arizona
The Orchard Community Learning Center, in partnership with a nearby elementary school, will work with students to expand hours at a student-run restaurant that provides healthy food options for the community, business skills for the students, and supports a local food system that also includes an urban farm and the school cafeteria.
California Indian Museum & Cultural Center – California
A youth-led social enterprise will address diet-related health disparities in Sonoma County’s Native communities while educating Native people and other consumers about the health benefits of traditional foods by producing and selling acorn-based food products in existing healthy food retail spaces.
YWCA New Britain – Connecticut
Teenage leaders will improve public safety in their community by identifying and documenting safety concerns, working with the local police department to address the issues they identify, and hosting community events to share their work with the community.
The Children’s Home, Inc. – Florida
Grandparent caregivers struggling with poverty and poor health will earn skills to improve both their and their grandchildren’s well-being through a peer-supported, self-management approach that addresses diet, physical activity, and stress management.
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County, Inc. – Florida
Broward County residents will work with community centers and libraries to improve maternal/child health outcomes during pregnancy by providing women and their families with free indoor fitness activities, nutrition education, and stress management classes.
Urban Health Partnerships, Inc. – Florida
Urban Health Partnerships and local nonprofit partners will work closely with older residents to achieve policy changes that create social and built environments that meet the needs of older adults.
Redlands Christian Migrant Association Inc – Florida
Three charter schools serving low-income populations will improve the health of students and their families through organized physical activity, access to community gardens, and education on stress reduction techniques.
Florida Introduces Physical Activity And Nutrition To Youth – Florida
A student advisory council will improve health of peers and their families by working with school officials and community partners to implement new health services and policies in two Broward County schools.
Soccer In The Streets Inc – Georgia
Soccer in the Streets will make soccer accessible for youth and adults throughout Atlanta by creating fields at transit stations and providing recreational and competitive leagues, eliminating barriers of transportation and cost for underserved youth.
Environmental Law & Policy Center Of The Midwest – Illinois
The Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest and local community groups will reduce levels of pollution that can cause asthma and other illnesses by engaging residents to monitor air quality and developing an air quality data platform to build public support for improved air quality.
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful Inc – Indiana
Keep Indianapolis Beautiful will help neighborhood groups eliminate blight and create community gathering spaces by providing supplies and support to transform vacant lots into resident-designed pocket parks.
La Comunidad Inc. – Massachusetts
La Comunidad will improve address high stress levels among immigrants in Everett, MA, by training interpreters and storytellers who will work with residents and police to craft community policing strategies that address residents’ most pressing safety concerns.
FoodLab Detroit – Michigan
FoodLab Detroit will work to strengthen Detroit’s regional food economy by providing over 200 local entrepreneurs with hands-on education, resources, and opportunities for community learning to support their work distributing, processing, and selling healthy food.
Health Foundation Inc. – North Carolina
Youth participants will increase utilization of active transportation options through a design process aimed at improving residents’ access to bicycles.
National PTA – North Carolina
National PTA will help students and parents at three schools make healthier food choices through improved school menu options, family food tastings of healthy options, and sample kits to help families try new foods at home.
Sustain Charlotte Inc. – North Carolina
Residents of two low-income Charlotte neighborhoods will improve bicycle and pedestrian access to transit infrastructure by working with elected officials and their neighbors to advance transportation improvements.
Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation Inc. – Ohio
Walnut Hills Redevelopment Foundation will increase food access and create opportunities for food entrepreneurs by developing unused space into a multifunctional food hub.
Grounded Strategies – Pennsylvania
Grounded Strategies will support youth and residents in two Pennsylvania towns in reducing blight and improving their community’s access to green spaces by equipping participants with the skills, resources, and tools to redevelop vacant lots into community assets.
The Food Trust – Pennsylvania
Youth leaders will increase access to healthy foods in Philadelphia by working with corner store owners to stock and promote healthy food choices and working with schools to host farm stands.
Air Alliance Houston – Texas
Air Alliance Houston will reduce exposure to traffic-related air pollutants and increase physical activity among children at four school campuses by implementing activities that encourage active transit and reduce personal vehicle use and school bus idling.
Houston Health Foundation – Texas
Houston Health Foundation will promote food access and well-being among immigrant populations by supporting youth in developing an urban agriculture enterprise that produces and sells native crops.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids, Inc. – Virginia
Fit4Kids will increase opportunities for health for students by training youth, parents, and organizational partners to address system and policy issues, such as ensuring daily recess and reducing sugar content in school breakfasts.
Core-El Centro Inc. – Wisconsin
An action board of Latina residents will improve public safety and build trust and communication between residents and the MilwaukeePolice Department by acting as a liaison between their community and police and providing community events to share information and foster understanding.
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 www.aetnafoundation.org.