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.”

Six people standing on the steps of Liberti Church holding a sign that reads, "hunger heroes"
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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 man wearing a red hooded sweatshirt runs through a park while listening to a podcast on his mobile phone.
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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Truth Initiative

Logo of the Truth Initiative

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.

Read more

Kicking off our commitment to address racial inequality

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Since announcing the company’s commitment to invest nearly $600 million over five years to address racial inequality, CVS Health has been focused on ways to further advance employee, community and public policy initiatives that address inequality faced by the Black community and other disenfranchised communities.

Because studies have shown that your zip code can have as much impact on your health as your genetic code, CVS Health is focusing on social determinants of health in Black and at-risk communities. Increasing access to housing and health care to assure all Americans, especially to those that are more at-risk, is imperative to improve health outcomes.

Most recently, the company kicked-off of this commitment with a $13.7 million investment to help renovate 230 low-income housing units at the Rosewind apartments in Columbus, Ohio. These funds will also be used to make significant improvements to the local community center and support new community programs in the area.

This investment builds on the company’s longstanding commitment to diversity, including social determinants of health, with a particular emphasis on increasing access to affordable housing, which is inextricably linked to health. Access to health care, housing and healthy food can significantly impact rates of chronic disease and other health outcomes, with average life spans varying by up to 20-30 years in communities that are just a few miles apart.

Within the Rosewind complex in the South Linden neighborhood of Columbus, 95% of residents are Black and have an average annual household income of less than $17,000.  Average life expectancy in South Linden is just under 70 years – more than seven years shorter than the average in all of Franklin County, which includes Columbus and certain neighboring communities. And there are 25.7 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in South Linden compared to the 8.5 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in Franklin County.

The renovations, as well as new community programming funded by CVS Health, will provide comprehensive local support to residents, including the following new on-site programs Health and Wellness programming, on-site health screenings and COVID-19 testing, an educational cooking series, community programs and maternal programs.

In addition, CVS Health will also establish a new program at Rosewind as part of its ongoing workforce initiatives to provide employment services and training to the community. These workforce development programs will focus on incorporating empowerment programs and build local partnerships that will help community members achieve meaningful employment opportunities.

Since 1997, CVS Health and Aetna, a CVS Health company, have invested more than $1 billion in affordable housing and community initiatives. In 2019, the company invested $67 million in affordable housing across the country, and the company plans to exceed that amount over the next five years to help address housing insecurities and promote community health improvement. Investments in affordable housing, as well as collaborations with community groups in these areas, help provide support to those who need it most.

Brick apartment building in the Rosewind community in Columbus, Ohio.
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Aetna Better Health donates $300,000 to Ohio nonprofits

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A mother carries her daughter outdoors during dusk. A CVS Health heart outline is in the background.

Contributions part of Aetna’s more than $1 million investment to support local Ohio communities

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Aetna Better Health of Ohio (ABH-OH), a part of the Aetna Medicaid organization and a CVS Health company, today announced it recently donated $300,000 to three Ohio nonprofits. The donations will help the organizations expand access to primary care services, improve the health status of at-risk communities and provide pregnant women and children with behavioral health support.

Throughout the past year, Aetna has invested more than $1 million to various nonprofit organizations across the state as part of a statewide effort to address social determinants of health and provide underserved communities with more options to access quality health care. Additionally, CVS Health recently announced a $13.7 million investment to help renovate 230 low-income housing units at the Rosewind apartments in Columbus. The funds will also be used to make significant improvements to the local community center and support new community programs in the area.

“Supporting our local communities is a core part of our mission to help individuals and families on their path to better health,” said Debra Bacon, Chief Operating Officer, Aetna Better Health. “The role of our nonprofit partners has never been more important, and we are committed to working together to develop solutions that will lead to increased access and improved health outcomes.”

Aetna Better Health of Ohio recently donated $100,000 to each of the following organizations across the state:

  • Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus (HCGC): With over 1.3 million Ohioans having limited or no access to primary care services, HCGC focuses on bringing key stakeholders together to improve the value of health care throughout the region. HCGC will use the contribution from ABH-OH to fund training and certification for 20 Community Health Workers.

  • Ohio Children’s Alliance (OCA): As a statewide child advocacy organization, the Alliance is committed to sustainably improving the delivery of services to children, young adults and families through policy advocacy, performance improvement and member support. The $100,000 donation will enable the Alliance-member behavioral health agencies across the state to implement same-day access for initial behavioral health assessments for children.

  • Moms2B: An innovative, proven, community-based pregnancy and parenting group program for low-income families, Columbus-based Moms2B aims to help women at high risk for infant mortality learn tools that will enable them to make healthier choices and deliver healthy, full-term infants. The $100,000 ABH-OH donation will help integrate mental health treatment and counseling as part of the Moms2B program, utilizing The Ohio State University Wexner Center’s Woman’s Behavioral Health Team.

“We greatly appreciate the continued support that Aetna Better Health of Ohio offers to our organization and clients,” said Carrie Baker, President & CEO, Healthcare Collaborative of Greater Columbus. “This funding is vital to supporting the efforts of our dedicated staff who work tirelessly to provide medically underserved individuals with access to health care.” 

“We made a commitment as an organization that we would work to reduce wait times and improve access to mental health services for children and families,” said Mark Mecum, CEO of the Ohio Children’s Alliance. “Our new collaboration with Aetna Better Health of Ohio provides the resources we need to begin achieving this goal across all of Ohio.”

"This generous donation will enable us to provide behavioral health support and education services for expectant moms,” said Dr. Patricia Gabbe, Moms2B Founder and Professor of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Through our collaborative efforts with Aetna Better Health of Ohio, we're working to improve infant mortality outcomes and enhance the quality of life for new moms and their babies." 

As of June 30, 2020, Aetna Better Health of Ohio has 275 employees in the state and serves approximately 26,000 Medicare-Medicaid (MMP) members.

About Aetna Medicaid

Aetna Medicaid Administrators LLC (Aetna Medicaid), a CVS Health business, has over 30 years of experience managing the care of the most medically vulnerable, using innovative approaches and a local presence in each market to achieve both successful health care results and effective cost outcomes. Aetna Medicaid has particular expertise serving high-need Medicaid members, including those who are dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare. Currently, Aetna Medicaid owns and/or administers Medicaid managed health care plans under the names of Aetna Better Health and other affiliate names. Together, these plans serve approximately 2.4 million people in 16 states, including Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, and Texas. For more information, see www.aetnabetterhealth.com.

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Meeting the nutritional needs of a Midwestern community

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Harvesters The Community Food Network has served 26 counties in northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas for over 40 years by providing food and household products to more than 760 local partners, including food pantries, shelters, and community kitchens. As the impact of COVID-19 began to ripple across the country, they knew they were going to face unprecedented and unpredictable needs. As food donations decreased, food costs increased, and volunteers sheltered at home, they prepared to take action to ensure they continued to reach their community. Support from organizations like CVS Health, who provided a $20,000 grant to support their food distribution efforts, would prove critical.

As the pandemic set in, their nonprofit partners reported need increasing by 30 to 40 percent. In March and April, they distributed over 8.7 million pounds of food — an increase of 2.2 million pounds from the same time last year. And with supply chain challenges and reduced community donations, they found the cost to provide meals increased 300 percent. In response to these needs, Harvesters increased their distributions, including more mobile distributions, such as two “mega mobile” distributions that served over 16,000 people. And support from organizations like CVS Health filled the gap in food need: our donation provided 20,000 meals.

Within the community, their response has been welcomed. “It’s just been helpful having a variety of nutritious food and a clean and safe place to pick it up… I’m usually on the other side — giving,” said one client. “They’re so respectful here. They help you maintain your dignity.” We’re proud to support Harvesters and the quick response that allowed them to help this client, and thousands of others like her, get the food they needed throughout a difficult time.

Woman holding a wooden basket of fresh produce filled to the top.
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Providing access to food in Boston

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While the City of Boston has created food access points to help address food insecurity caused by COVID-19, for many in the city, limited mobility or lack of transportation means that these resources are still out of reach. Boston Medical Center recognized that for their most medically fragile patients, alternatives would be necessary to ensure they received nutritious food appropriate for their specific dietary needs. With support from CVS Health, they developed a COVID-19 Emergency Social Services Fund to help support this vulnerable population.

One family helped by this program were connected with the fund after both parents were admitted to Boston Medical Center for inpatient COVID-19 care, leaving their oldest son, just a teenager, to take care of his younger siblings as they quarantined at home. Unable to leave the house, they were in dire need of food. A volunteer was able to work quickly with food pantry staff to pack a box of food for delivery and bring it to the family’s home. Since the volunteer couldn’t hand the box directly to the family, to ensure they received it safely, she instead left it on their doorstep and waited in her car while they collected it.

Funding from CVS Health allowed Boston Medical Center to provide no-cost meals to over 2,000 low-income individuals, many of whom are hourly wage earners without paid sick leave or who are unable to work due to the pandemic. All told, the program has distributed 17,000 meals so far, providing support and security to families in need.

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