Skip to main content

The Aetna Foundation Helps Improve the Health of 25 Communities Nationwide Through More Than $2 Million in Grants

October 30, 2017 | Health Insurance

Grants will support improvements for more than 300,000 people as part of the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative

WASHINGTON – Approximately 60 percent of a person's life expectancy is driven by factors outside of the doctor's office – our individual behaviors, as well as social and environmental factorsKaiser Family Foundation: "Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity". As part of its continued effort to address social determinants of health, the Aetna Foundation announced today more than $2 million in grants to 25 nonprofit organizations across the U.S., as part of its Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative.

Grants from the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative support organizations working to address social determinants of health, like access to healthy food and safe places to play. These grants are being made at a time when more than 42 million individuals in the United States live with food insecurityFeeding America: "Poverty and hunger in America". and one out of three adults is obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke and type two diabetesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention: "Adult Obesity Facts".

"Building a healthier world starts at the grassroots level, in communities committed to making a difference," said Mark Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and the chairman and CEO of Aetna. "This year's Cultivating Healthy Communities grantees are designing local solutions to local problems, and striving to improve the health of their communities."

Bertolini will discuss the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative as part of his keynote session on November 2 at the U.S. News and World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow forum in Washington, D.C. His conversation with Brian Kelly, U.S. News editor and chief content officer, will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. Eastern. More information on the conference is available at

A key focus of the Cultivating Healthy Communities grants will be expanding access to spaces that promote active living and healthy eating. Nearly $1 million will support projects that will enhance the physical spaces people use in their everyday lives, such as routes for walking and biking, and the retail spaces or gardens that bring fresh foods to communities without easy access to grocery stores. The lack of sidewalks, bike paths and recreational areas in some communities discourages physical activity and contributes to obesityNational Institutes of Health: "Obesity, physical activity, and the urban environment: public health research needs". Not only are people in low-income and minority neighborhoods more likely to live in food deserts, they also have fewer recreational facilities than wealthier and predominantly white communities, a factor that may contribute to ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in obesity ratesHarvard School of Public Health: "Environmental Barriers to Activity"..

In addition, minority groups are more at-risk for exposure to unhealthy air conditions. African-Americans, Latinos and Asians are the most likely to live in communities that are heavily affected by pollution and environmental hazards such as high concentrations of pesticidesCenters for Disease Control and Prevention: "CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report – United States, 2013". A total investment of $300,000 will support projects that are focused on reversing air quality disparities and decreasing exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Since 2016, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants through Cultivating Healthy Communities, which is a key part of the Foundation's overall multimillion-dollar commitment to building a healthier world, community by community.

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

City of Phoenix Housing Department – Arizona
Affordable bike-sharing for low-income residents who live and work in the Edison-Eastlake Community in Phoenix.

Friends of Public Radio of Arizona – Arizona
Digital media bullying and cyberbullying prevention campaign.

Rich City Rides – California
Free bikes, educational workshops and ride celebrations to Oakland-area residents.

Institute for Community Research – Connecticut
Leadership development for urban teens engaged in creating new options for accessing fresh foods in their communities.

Jack & Jill Children’s Center – Florida
Stress management, healthy eating and financially sound decision-making in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale.

Alachua County Board of County Commissioners, Department of Court Services – Florida
Healthy lifestyle and gardening workshops for incarcerated individuals participating in a work release program.

University of Florida/IFAS Extension Clay County 4-H – Florida
Hands on urban-agricultural experience for Clay County youth.

Miami Children’s Museum – Florida
Ten classes modeling nutrition and wellness strategies for 100 low-income families that have children in Head Start or Early Head Start.

East Central Florida Regional Planning Council – Florida
Urban agriculture and bike repair activities to teach healthy life and vocational skills to Holden Heights residents in Orlando.

Farmworker Association of Florida – Florida
Educational program focusing on chemical-free farming via community gardens in Florida, New Jersey, and Washington state.

Concordia Place – Illinois
Nutrition and youth employment program for low-income Chicago teenagers.

Boston Public Health Commission – Massachusetts
Technical assistance and training for Boston's hair and nail salons, auto shops to prevent pollution and chemical exposures.

BikeWalkKC – Missouri
Leadership training to improve community health, for a large focus on increasing walking and biking.

Hopeworks ‘N Camden Inc. – New Jersey
Youth-driven program highlighting and encouraging use of community resources for Camden residents through a custom app designed by youth.

First Nations Development Institute – New Mexico
Connecting tribal food retailers with suppliers from Native owned local farms to increasing Native families' access to fresh foods.

The Doe Fund – New York
Access to healthy foods in disadvantaged communities and food deserts in Brooklyn.

Bountiful Cities – North Carolina
Three organizations joining to improve food security through educational programs in Asheville and Buncombe County.

Centralina Council of Governments – North Carolina
Improvement of Charlotte's dangerous road conditions through on-the-ground demonstrations of cost-effective traffic calming measures.

Guilford Child Development – North Carolina
Two generation integrated service system teaching families about self-sufficiency.

Clean Air Council – Pennsylvania
Resident-led program to improve air quality in Philadelphia's Kensington neighborhood.

John Bartram Association – Pennsylvania
Utilization of 45-acre river garden in Southwest Philadelphia to encourage active lifestyles and promote healthy eating.

The SAFE (Stop Abuse For Everyone) Alliance – Texas
Safe and healthy relationships workshops for youth.

It’s Time Texas – Texas
Revamping of low-use public spaces into locales for fitness classes and walking groups for people of all ages in high-need neighborhoods.

University of Houston Foundation – Texas
Program to engage high-risk African-American and Latino youth in mindful eating and exercise.

Migrant Clinicians Network – Virginia
Program to teach migrant farmworker families about how to decrease their and their children's exposure to harmful pesticides.

About The Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna. 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 430,000 hours in 2016 alone. For more information, visit

Media Contact:

Ethan Slavin