Battling food insecurity one meal at a time

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Aetna Medicare again sponsored the annual Philabundance Agency Appreciation Event to honor Southeastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey community partners that fight hunger. Philabundance, the area’s largest hunger-relief organization, presented 2020 Hunger Hero Awards to outstanding individuals from five member agencies.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s event couldn’t be held indoors. Instead, Aetna Medicare Community Lead Generator Desaree Jones and Olivia Edwards from Philabundance surprised the winners by travelling to their agencies to distribute the awards.

“People in these community organizations aren’t always publicly recognized for their efforts, so it was a great opportunity to share our thanks for the work they do,” said Jones. “Besides the awards, we brought balloons, a boxed lunch and a bag of Aetna and CVS Health goodies: hand sanitizer, face shields, face masks, shower gel and bubble bath. I really enjoyed interacting with the agencies and seeing their food pantries.”

Aetna’s National Director of Medicare Community Engagement Ricardo Maldonado joined Jones at the awards presentation at Liberti Church, as he lives nearby. Although he no longer works in the Philadelphia market, Maldonado wouldn’t have missed this event. He was also one the driving forces behind creating and sponsoring last year’s inaugural event.

Six people standing on the steps of Liberti Church holding a sign that reads, "hunger heroes"
Honoring Liberti Church Director Vito Baldini (third from left) are (from left) Aetna's Desaree Jones, Philabundance's Emily Glick and Margarita Cruz, and Aetna's Ricardo Maldonado and Jessica Velez.

“Despite COVID-19, we wanted to acknowledge these agencies’ efforts to support their communities during these difficult times,” Maldonado emphasized. “We know how much the neighborhoods appreciate the agencies’ work, because hunger doesn’t go away. That’s why I’m so grateful CVS Health recognized Philabundance earlier this year, awarding a $25,000 grant to support its food bank.”

Like Maldonado, Jones draws energy from community service. Before joining Aetna, she created neighborhood events in Philadelphia and Delaware County for the Pennsylvania State Senate for 12 years.

“It’s important to give back,” affirmed Jones, who shared that she received help from a food bank years ago while battling an illness. “I always say ‘How can I be of assistance?’ because I know what it’s like when you need food. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s real, that I’m doing work I love to help others. My job is a blessing and a great opportunity to develop relationships for Aetna Medicare throughout the Philadelphia area.”

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Keeping students safe

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At Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida, campus life is different this semester. Masks are required everywhere; signs are posted all around — even by the pool — discouraging close gatherings. 

Second-year psychology student Rorie Good says several factors influenced her return, including a chance to have the full college experience — and Lynn’s plan for COVID-19 testing. “After weighing the risks and feeling like Lynn was handling it pretty well, I decided that it would be good to come back,” she says.

Colleges and universities face clear challenges this year: Across the country, COVID-19 outbreaks have become a public health threat on and off campuses. Eighteen- to 25-year-olds also represent around 26 percent of new COVID-19 infections — more than any other group — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lynn University Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Christian Boniforti says his school’s main challenge is balancing safety and health issues with students’ expectations for an academic experience that reflects college life. 

Lynn University Chief Strategy and Technology Officer Christian Boniforti wearing a mask in conversation with a woman wearing a mask and social distancing.
Chris Boniforti says Lynn University has avoided a COVID-19 outbreak in part because of testing protocols

Testing was critical, so Lynn signed on with Return Ready, a customizable, scalable COVID-19 testing solution provided by CVS Health for college campuses and businesses. It allows students and employees to schedule a test anytime, at no cost, with results in minutes. The program also allows Lynn to do surveillance testing when positive cases arise.

“Because the testing results are done so quickly, it allows us to make decisions earlier, which ultimately helps control outbreaks and reduce the quarantine times,” Boniforti says.

Return Ready builds on CVS Health’s nationwide community-based COVID-19 testing infrastructure. The company has administered over five million COVID-19 tests since March and has about 4,000 testing sites across the country.

With Lynn — like every Return Ready partner — they started with a consultation, says Sree Chaguturu, M.D., chief medical officer and senior vice president for CVS Caremark. “We also work with a client to ensure that all of the reporting and analytics are provided to local and state health authorities as needed for regulatory compliance, as well as reporting back to the client so that they have timely analytics to help them understand testing trends,” he says.

While Lynn University had some positive cases, Boniforti says the school has avoided an outbreak, thanks in large part to testing and protocols: “Having a partner to do those things really allows us to focus our efforts on continuing to provide a safe learning environment for student activities and education.”

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Tobacco-free for five years

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Five years ago, we made the bold decision to eliminate tobacco products from all of our CVS Pharmacy stores nationwide, and we’re still the only national pharmacy to do so.

Not only did our decision lead to 100 million fewer packs of cigarettes being sold in the first year since their removal, but we also took our efforts beyond our stores, helping 228 colleges and universities become tobacco free over the past five years and committing $50 million to deliver the first tobacco-free generation through our Be The First initiative.

And with the significant rise in teen e-cigarette use, we’re now working to combat vaping, too, including a $10 million commitment in 2019 to support youth smoking and e-cigarette prevention strategies and education in partnership with Discovery Education and CATCH Global Foundation, and our pledge earlier this year not to work with advertising or public relations agencies who work with tobacco and e-cigarette companies.

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In 2014, we quit tobacco.

Nearly 65%

of Americans agree that our decision to stop selling tobacco reduces the risk of chronic diseaseStatistics from an August 2019 Morning Consult poll of 2,200 adults

62%

of adults agree that retailers have an obligation to limit access to tobacco and e-cigarette productsStatistics from an August 2019 Morning Consult poll of 2,200 adults

81%

of adults support improving community education about the dangers of smokingStatistics from an August 2019 Morning Consult poll of 2,200 adults

Beyond tobacco: Taking steps to transform health care

But our decision to eliminate tobacco was just the start. As a health care company now combined with Aetna, we’re taking even bolder steps to transform the consumer health care experience and help lead our customers, patients and the communities we serve on a path to better health.

On our shelves, customers now have access to more health-focused products and services than ever before. And we recently became the first and only national retailer to require that all vitamins and supplements undergo third-party testing to confirm they meet our high standards.

We’re also removing chemicals like parabens and phthalates from our store brand products and we took SPF less than 15 off our shelves.

At the local level, we’re building healthier communities with a $100 million investment in health and wellness, which includes programs aimed at helping people manage the most prevalent chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Moving into 2020, we will expand our focus on tobacco cessation and prevention, particularly within the Medicaid program where smoking rates are considerably higher than among all adults. We’ll be working with Aetna Better Health managed Medicaid plans and together with CVS Caremark clients interested in creating or expanding smoking cession efforts for their Medicaid members.

At CVS Health, we know that health is a personal journey. And from tobacco removal to our many other health-focused services and offerings, we’re committed to navigating that journey hand-in-hand with our customers and patients to ensure that the future of care is one in which everyone can achieve their best health.

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Branches in Miami supports students and their families amid COVID-19

Branches in Miami supports students and their families amid COVID-19
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The coronavirus has touched all of our lives in one way or another. Children, in particular, are in an ongoing state of flux. Many classes in schools and colleges across the country have been upended. We did find an oasis in South Florida where an organization called Branches has been working diligently for over 25 years to serve the neighborhood’s youth and their families.

For the podcast (below) we spoke with executive director Brent McLaughlin and Kim Torres, Director of Student Services, and Branches partner Rosa Santiago — as well as students Kelson Baptiste, Vicshonda “Vicky” Bellany, and Melvin Amaya.

Aetna Better Health®, a Medicaid managed care plan in Florida, has a long-standing relationship with Branches as a community partner.

Tune in and subscribe to our podcast

Listen to Healthy Communities News on the go using your favorite podcast platform.

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A tutor with the Branches organization of Miami, Florida, assists a young male student with a school assignment on a laptop computer.
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Look, listen and stop

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Some 1.4 million people have attempted suicide. That these numbers count “attempted” suicides is testament to the power individuals possess to prevent suicide if they pay attention to the signs and take swift and appropriate action. When you’re educated, you’re empowered. It’s why Aetna offers several training opportunities to employees, members and communities.

Partnering with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), Aetna has made Talk Saves Lives, an instructor-led or online, self-paced training program, available to all CVS Health colleagues through its Employee Assistance Program (EAP). The digital version, which takes only about an hour to complete and has no need for prior knowledge or experience, is also available to Behavioral Health and Resources for Living members. The training enables learners to recognize signs of suicide ideation and engage in conversations with those appearing at risk or whom they are concerned about.

Many Aetna employees who interact with members as part of their jobs have been trained on a more intensive suicide prevention program called Mental Health First Aid. It’s an eight-hour, in-person course that teaches those enrolled how to spot the signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation and provides evidence-based approaches to intervening. On successful completion, attendees receive a certificate good for three years. In addition, Aetna customers who want to offer the course to their employees as part of their medical benefits can request that inclusion. The training is available virtually, so people can learn Mental Health First Aid from wherever they may be located. 

As adolescents and young adults are among the highest risk groups for suicide, Aetna is also partnering with AFSP and other industry experts to offer programs geared toward high school and college students. These programs focus on providing baseline information about the risk of suicide and how students can help their peers by paying attention to warning signs and knowing how to support each other in seeking help. 

Finally, Aetna is invested in finding solutions to bring targeted training programs to local communities accross the nation to increase awarenss and reach the goal of reducing suicide.

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2020 Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge grant recipients

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Logo of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

The Aetna Foundation, together with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, announced the organizations this year who have been selected to receive a grant as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to support communities that are changing the way they work together across sectors to reduce disparities in chronic disease outcomes. This grant program will award a total of $2 million to teams of organizations that will work together to change the food access and health care systems in their communities and engage community residents as leaders in their work.

The Challenge teams will each receive $100,000 to implement multi-year projects to advance health equity in communities where individuals are disproportionately impacted by health disparities. In addition to the funding, Challenge teams will participate in one-on-one technical assistance provided by APHA and NACo and co-create a supportive peer-learning network led by Healthy Places by Design over the course of the two years.

The project teams intend to use what they learn over the next two years to produce models and resources that can inform work in other similarly sized cities and counties across the country. Challenge communities have proposed strategies that include:

  • Increasing access points for purchasing fresh produce and receiving health care;

  • Leveraging local schools as partners;

  • Addressing barriers to transportation;

  • Building more equitable models for food procurement and distribution;

  • Increasing coordination and data-sharing across organizations;

  • Improving health care referral systems;

  • Developing community advisory boards; and

  • Informing local policies.


The project teams are located in the following cities and counties:

  • Chula Vista, California

  • Collier County, Florida

  • Deerfield Beach, Florida

  • Dougherty County, Georgia

  • Cumming/Forsyth County, Georgia

  • Perry County, Kentucky

  • New Brunswick, New Jersey

  • Paterson, New Jersey

  • Orange County, New York

  • Rochester, New York

  • Tompkins County, New York

  • Cumberland County, North Carolina

  • Wilkes County, North Carolina

  • Cincinnati, Ohio

  • Cleveland, Ohio

  • Cambria County, Pennsylvania

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • Kerrville, Texas

  • Greenbrier County, West Virginia

  • Wheeling, West Virginia

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Truth Initiative

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CVS Health and Truth Initiative® have partnered to help end smoking and tobacco use at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and community colleges across the country with the goal of increasing the number of 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free campuses.https://truthinitiative.org/news/truth-initiative-and-cvs-health-launch-program-make-hbcus-and-community-colleges-tobacco-free

The “truth × CVS Health Foundation” tobacco-free campus initiative is part of CVS Health’s Be The First campaign, the company’s five year, $50 million commitment to helping deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation. CVS Health and the CVS Health Foundation have set actionable and measurable goals for Be The First, including a doubling of the number of tobacco-free educational institutions in the United States.

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Support for ending tobacco use on campus

8 in 10

College students approve of policies that prohibit tobacco use on campus

Keeping campuses smoke- and tobacco-free

While smoking rates among youth and young adults have fallen in recent decades, tobacco use remains a significant public health concern. Fewer than one-half of all HBCUs and fewer than one-third of all community colleges have 100 percent smoke-free policies in place.Based on the Smokefree and Tobacco-Free U.S. and Tribal Colleges and Universities list the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation published on April 3, 2017.

Statistics show that nearly all smokers — 99 percent — begin using tobacco before age 27.https://truthinitiative.org/news/smoke-screens-tobacco-use-youth-rated-movies-still-problemhttps://truthinitiative.org/news/smoke-screens-tobacco-use-youth-rated-movies-still-problemhttps://truthinitiative.org/news/smoke-screens-tobacco-use-youth-rated-movies-still-problem We believe strongly that colleges and universities can help to prevent students from develop a lifelong and potentially life-threatening habit by adopting tobacco-free campus policies.

The Truth Initiative hosts awareness events on campuses and employs several community outreach managers responsible for connecting with schools across the country. Through support from the CVS Health Foundation, the Truth Initiative has provided funding to 106 grantees, including 42 HBCUs and 64 community colleges. At the end of 2017, a total of 61 colleges, including 18 HBCU grantees and 43 community college grantees, had successfully adopted 100 percent smoke- or tobacco-free policies.

Visit the Truth Initiative’s website to learn more.

National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics

Logo of the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics

We believe that we are uniquely positioned to address some of the health challenges communities across the U.S. face. To do so, the CVS Health Foundation has partnered with the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics (NAFC) on a multi-year program, with grants awarded to free and charitable clinics nationwide to increase access to care, improve health outcomes and lower overall health care costs across the country in innovative and strategic ways. Since launching the partnership with NAFC, the CVS Health Foundation has delivered a total of more than $4.5 million in funding to free and charitable clinics across the country.


Increased access to care

Grants awarded in partnership with the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics have allowed grantees to increase operating hours and the number of patient visits, resulting in a decrease in the number of emergency room visits and improved patient compliance.

Our partnership with NAFC enables us to better identify and support free and charitable clinics that help to improve outcomes among patients with chronic conditions by offering a wide range of coordinated services, including screening, fitness classes, case management, and health education. Patients who benefit from these services are typically uninsured, underinsured, or otherwise unable to access a variety of health care services.

Learn more about how the Free and Charitable Clinics will be utilizing their grants to improve community health.

National Association of Community Health Centers

Logo of the National Association of Community Health Centers

At CVS Health, our purpose of helping people on their path to better health guides everything that we do. We are committed to providing our patients, customers, clients and the communities they serve with the resources they need to achieve this. In 2012, the CVS Health Foundation launched a partnership with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) on a multi-year program to award grants in support of the development of innovative, community-based programs that expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved populations and expand the focus on chronic disease and prescription drug abuse management and prevention. Since launching the partnership with NACHC, the CVS Health Foundation has delivered more than $5 million in funding to community health centers across the United States.


Combating opioid abuse in underserved communities

To address the growing public health change of opioid misuse and abuse, the CVS Health Foundation also turned to NACHC to help tackle the problem. Community health centers have a unique opportunity to address the opioid crisis and support drug abuse for patients in their communities. Through this partnership, grant opportunities are made available to community health centers that have established or plan to establish community-based care model for screening, identifying, engaging, and coordinating care for patients inappropriately using prescription medications and other substances. In addition to funding, grant recipients also receive access to free training, technical assistance, and coaching services, as well as the opportunity to tap into the collaborative power of health center teams and behavioral health integration experts.

Additionally, the CVS Health Foundation and NACHC convened a panel of experts to develop a protocol of best practices for community health centers on provider prescribing guidelines, medication-assisted treatment, behavioral health, and collaboration with other community organizations to treat and prevent prescription drug abuse among at-risk patients. These guidelines serve as a resource for community health centers receiving grants from this partnership to provide treatment for opioid addiction.

Learn more about how the National Association of Community Health Centers will be utilizing their grants.

A community health center fights back against opioid abuse

A CVS Health Foundation grant is helping the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center enhance their opioid abuse treatment programs.

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2017 and 2018 NACHC Community Health Grant recipients

Grant funding from the CVS Health Foundation helps the clinics serve those in need in their local communities.

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American Heart Association

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Go Red for Women®

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women. That’s why CVS Health is proud to be the national sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement to empower women to take charge of their heart health. We’re encouraging people across the country to make a donation to support heart health research and education. Donate today.

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Know your numbers

Five personal health numbers can help patients determine their risk for heart disease: total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index. The tests to determine these numbers are simple, and the results provide patients with the information they need to take steps toward improving their health, especially their cardiovascular health.


Local and affordable access to screenings

MinuteClinic is a local and affordable community health resource for your heart health needs all year long. No appointment is necessary, and 50% of Americans live within 10 miles of a MinuteClinic. Find a MinuteClinic near you.

In celebration of American Heart Month you can make a date with your heart and get a no-cost heart health screening at MinuteClinic® during select Thursdays in February (February 6, February 13 and February 20).

A pictogram representing a stethoscope.

Get a no-cost health screening

In celebration of American Heart Month, get a no-cost heart health screening at MinuteClinic® during select Thursdays in February.

Download the voucher

Seven tips from the American Heart Association to reduce risk for heart disease

Learn simple ways to help your heart stay healthy and reduce your risk.

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Five numbers predict heart disease risk

As the national sponsor of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women Movement, CVS Health and MinuteClinic are reminding patients of the importance of “knowing their numbers” for heart health.

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