Fifty Cities and Counties Accept Challenge to Improve Community Health in Bid for $1.5 Million in Prizes

The Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association and National Association of Counties Announce Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge Finalists

WASHINGTON – Despite spending more on health care than any other country in the world, Americans live shorter, less healthy lives than our counterparts in other high-income nations. While this is a national problem, our local communities are where we have the power to influence our health more than ever before.

To help improve our health through our communities, the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) today recognized the HealthyCommunity50 that will move on to compete for the grand prize in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. These select cities and counties will receive a $10,000 community seed award to implement a program able to show measurable improvements around key social determinants of health.

"Approximately 90 percent of the factors affecting risk of premature death exist outside of a doctor's office or hospital," said Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna chairman and CEO. "The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge supports communities that are working to address and improve these factors and build a healthier world, community by community."

The Challenge, a partnership between The Aetna Foundation, APHA and NACo, in collaboration with CEOs for Cities, is designed to create economically competitive, inclusive and equitable communities. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities and counties that are able to show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships.

The Challenge is designed so that participants share successful health improvement strategies that can be scaled and replicated by other communities. HealthyCommunity50 members will share experiences and best practices throughout the competition via a learning network.

The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities. An expert advisory board selected these groups to continue to the next phase of the Challenge based on plans to improve the health of their communities. Improvements will be measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures.

"We know that efforts to address these social determinants of health are necessary to create health equity, and that's why we're so excited for our 50 cities, counties and tribes," said APHA executive director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. "Their innovative work is leading to better health in their own world and beyond."

An expert panel will conduct site visits to all HealthyCommunity50 members to understand the community's approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 – $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other.

"Local governments drive health improvements, and counties have developed innovative approaches to transform the health of communities across the nation," said NACo President Bryan Desloge. "County leaders are learning by example and putting best practices into action. We’re excited about participating in the HealthyCommunity50 and look forward to applying the lessons learned to promote healthy communities in counties across the nation.”

The HealthyCommunity50 are:

Anchorage Park Foundation – Alaska
Program Goal: Increase outdoor physical activity

City of Avondale – Arizona
Program Goal: Increase access to recreational programs

County of San Diego – California
Program Goal: Increase health equity

City of Perris – California
Program Goal: Increase access to healthy foods

Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc. – Connecticut
Program Goal: Increase health equity

New Haven Health Department – Connecticut
Program Goal: Decrease childhood asthma

City of Miami – Florida
Program Goal: Increase health care access

Florida Department of Health – Florida
Program Goal: Decrease food inequality

City of St. Petersburg – Florida
Program Goal: Increase access, availability and procurement of healthy foods

Hillsborough County MPO – Florida
Program Goal: Increase access to healthy foods

Healthy Savannah – Georgia
Program Goal: Increase healthy eating and health equity

Polk County Housing Trust Fund – Iowa
Program Goal: Decrease childhood asthma

DeKalb County Community Gardens – Illinois
Program Goal: Increase access to healthy foods

Kane County Health Department – Illinois
Program Goal: Increase community engagement

Building a Thriving Compassionate Community (BTCC) – Indiana
Program Goal: Increase children’s health conditions

Jump IN for Healthy Kids – Indiana
Program Goal: Program Goal: Decrease childhood obesity

Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government – Kentucky
Program Goal: Increase mental wellness and healthy behaviors

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City – Kansas
Program Goal: Increase walkability

Metropolitan Area Planning Council – Massachusetts
Program Goal: Increase walkability and bikeability

Baltimore City Health Department – Maryland
Program Goal: Increase physical activity

Ingham County Health Department – Michigan
Program Goal: Increase smoke-free living

Independence Health Department – Missouri
Program Goal: Decrease tobacco exposure in housing units

City of Kansas City Missouri Health Department – Missouri
Program Goal: Decrease youth and domestic violence rates

Mississippi State University: Gulfport – Mississippi
Program Goal: Increase healthy food choices in youth

Chatham County Public Health Department – North Carolina
Program Goal: Decrease obesity

Davidson County – North Carolina
Program Goal: Increase healthy eating and physical activity

Duke University: Durham and Cabarrus Counties – North Carolina
Program Goal: Increase health equity

Mecklenburg County Health Department – North Carolina
Program Goal: Decrease heart disease

University of Nebraska Board of Regents: Dodge, Saunders and Washington Counties – Nebraska
Program Goal: Increase healthy eating and health equity

City of Jersey City – New Jersey
Program Goal: Increase healthy behaviors to decrease violence

Coopers Ferry Partnership – New Jersey
Program Goal: Increase water quality

Sandoval Health Collaborative – New Mexico
Program Goal: Increase family nutrition and physical activity

Dutchess County Government – New York
Program Goal: Increase healthy living and employment opportunities

Union Community Health Center – New York
Program Goal: Decrease obesity

Cleveland Department of Public Health – Ohio
Program Goal: Decrease tobacco use in youth and adults

Franklin County Public Health – Ohio
Program Goal: Increase comprehensive healthy living

Tulsa City-County Health Department – Oklahoma
Program Goal: Increase access to healthy foods

Chester County – Pennsylvania
Program Goal: Increasing walking

Crispus Attucks Association, York County – Pennsylvania
Program Goal: Increase healthy housing

Allentown Health Bureau – Pennsylvania
Program Goal: Increase physical activity

Blair County Planning Commission – Pennsylvania
Program Goal: Increase community development

Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at the Miriam Hospital – Rhode Island
Program Goal: Decrease prison re-entry

Mary Black Foundation, Inc. – South Carolina
Program Goal: Decrease obesity in schools and the community

City of Brownsville – Texas
Program Goal: Increase access to community gardens

Waco-McLennan County Public Health District – Texas
Program Goal: Increase access to, and consumption of, fresh foods

Wichita County Public Health District – Texas
Program Goal: Decrease childhood obesity

Danville Pittsylvania County United Fund – Virginia
Program Goal: Increase healthy living

Lenowisco Health District – Virginia
Program Goal: Increase healthy living

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services – Washington
Program Goal: Increase walkability

West Virginia University, Morgantown – West Virginia
Program Goal: Increase mental wellness

For more information, visit and join the conversation at #HealthiestCitiesChallenge.

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET). Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. 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 have volunteered 3.8 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, share the latest research and information, promote best practices and advocate for public health issues and policies grounded in research. We are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public's health. Visit us at

The National Association of Counties (NACo) unites America's 3,069 county governments. Founded in 1935, NACo brings county officials together to advocate with a collective voice on national policy, exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public's understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service. For more information, visit

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