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.

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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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Helping local students thrive

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As COVID-19 closed schools across the country, parents and educators were forced to figure out how to transition students to remote learning. While teachers adjusted syllabi and schools invested in education software, a more basic need quickly became apparent in households across the country: not every student that needed a computer with internet access had one.

In our hometown of Woonsocket, Rhode Island, CVS Health was prepared to help. When the Rhode Island Foundation issued a challenge to businesses and individuals in the state to support the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), we responded with a $150,000 donation to provide 750 Chromebook laptops to students in grades three through five.

This donation helped to close the technology gap for Woonsocket students by providing pre-k through grade 12 students in the district the technology they needed to succeed at remote learning.

“Seeing Rhode Islanders come together to generously support our students and our teachers is inspiring. By focusing on the tools that make Distance Learning possible for every student, we are making equitable learning opportunities possible during this public health crisis,” said Rhode Island Foundation President and CEO Neil D. Steinberg.

“CVS Health has been an incredible partner in our state’s response to this pandemic, and I am so appreciative of their support of Woonsocket students,” said Angélica Infante-Green, RI Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “Access to technology can make all the difference between making school happen and preventing students from all participation. This donation will have an incredible impact to close the tech gap and help Woonsocket students make the most of their distance learning experience.”

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U.S. News and Aetna Foundation release 2020 Healthiest Communities rankings

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New platform provides real-time COVID-19 metric data on more than 3,000 counties; spotlights the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black and Hispanic communities

Washington, D.C. – September 22, 2020 –  U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with the Aetna Foundation, an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health, today released the third annual Healthiest Communities rankings. This year, the rankings are accompanied by new tools tracking COVID-19 data, as well as in-depth editorial analysis on relationships between COVID-19 and the social determinants of health in populations at the local level, especially in underserved communities across America. 

Separate from the rankings, the new COVID-19 tools track case numbers, death rates, unemployment and more. Updates in near real-time – as frequently as daily – allow users to visualize data and gain an up-to-date understanding of the county-level impact of COVID-19. The new pages also include factors such as obesity and diabetes prevalence that could place a county more at risk from COVID-19. The COVID-19 tools complement existing, pre-pandemic rankings data to reveal multiple correlations between the coronavirus pandemic and community health. 

“During this unprecedented year, the Healthiest Communities initiative continues to highlight important components of community health while synthesizing the new COVID-19 metrics, providing an in-depth look at the impact of the disease on communities,” said Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News. “U.S. News brings 30 years of high-quality health journalism and data expertise to this project highlighting social determinants of health and providing context to the current state of each community.”

The 2020 rankings are accompanied by editorial pieces that explore these correlations, including the link between COVID-19 cases and community vitality, a measurement that includes voting and census participation. The U.S. News editorial team also spotlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black and Hispanic communities, as a Healthiest Communities analysis shows counties with a majority share of Black or Hispanic residents have an average case rate and death rate that is above the national average.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the existing disparities in our health care system that have a significant impact on underserved communities,” said Garth Graham, vice president of community health and chief community health officer, CVS Health. “Using data from the Healthiest Communities rankings can help create insight on how to better address COVID-19 at the community level, while also helping health care organizations develop solutions to combat the health inequities that have plagued our underserved communities for many years.”

The Healthiest Communities rankings, underwritten by the Aetna Foundation, are part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world. The Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna foundations, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and advances CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.  

Top-Ranked Communities

For 2020, the top five Healthiest Communities score above the national average in at least eight of the 10 categories, including Los Alamos County, New Mexico – the healthiest community in the United States. Douglas County, Colorado, came in at No. 2, followed by Falls Church, Virginia, at No. 3. Broomfield County, Colorado, moved to No. 4, and Routt County, Colorado, rounded out the list at No. 5. 

The Healthiest Communities rankings and accompanying analysis are based on an evaluation of nearly 3,000 communities nationwide across 84 health and health-related metrics in 10 categories, from Education and Population Health to Infrastructure and Environment. The project serves as a tool to inform residents, community health leaders and elected officials about policies and best practices for better health outcomes by assessing which communities offer their citizens the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life.

To compile the rankings and create the overall Healthiest Communities project, U.S. News partnered with the University of Missouri Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems (CARES), a research institution skilled in community health assessment. Overall, the rankings are based on metrics drawn from sources such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The data used to compile 2020 Healthiest Communities rankings come from a period predating the COVID-19 pandemic and were not affected by the pandemic’s impact on communities. 

The Healthiest Communities rankings are the centerpiece of a platform featuring in-depth reporting and analysis on community and public health issues, as well as comprehensive data covering the full spectrum of factors that influence population health. This year, new measures explore medical debt, census self-response rates and eviction rates within communities. Healthiest Communities is part of U.S. News’ Government Rankings initiative, which measures government performance at the international, state and local levels and includes the Best States, Best Countries, and Cities projects. 

As a part of the 2020 Healthiest Communities rankings, U.S. News will be hosting the inaugural Community Health Leadership Forum webinar series. Themes will cover building the foundation of a healthy community, key takeaways from the 2020 health crises and addressing racism as a threat to public health. Sessions also include conversations with Community Health Leadership award winners in recognition of their incredible work. The first webinar will be on September 22 from 1-2:15 p.m. ET, and sessions will continue through the fall. Learn more here

2020 Healthiest Communities- Top 10

*See the full rankings here

  1. Los Alamos County, New Mexico
  2. Douglas County, Colorado
  3. Falls Church, Virginia
  4. Broomfield County, Colorado
  5. Routt County, Colorado
  6. Loudoun County, Virginia
  7. Pitkin County, Colorado
  8. Carver County, Minnesota
  9. Summit County, Colorado
  10. San Miguel County Colorado

 

2020 Key Measures

Top 5 Communities for Good Health Outcomes

  1. San Juan County, Washington
  2. Marin County, California
  3. Carver County, Minnesota
  4. Cedar County, Nebraska
  5. Winneshiek County, Iowa

 

Top 5 Communities for Access to Health Care

  1. Olmstead County, Minnesota
  2. Suffolk County, Massachusetts
  3. Johnson County, Iowa
  4. Perry County, Kentucky
  5. District of Columbia

 

Top 5 Communities for Mental Health

  1. Honolulu County, Hawaii
  2. Tripp County, South Dakota
  3. Pembina County, North Dakota
  4. Sutton County, Texas
  5. Hartley County, Texas

 

For more information on Healthiest Communities, follow coverage on Facebook and Twitter using #HealthiestCommunities.
 
U.S. News Media Contact: Sarah Javors, sjavors@usnews.com, 202-955-2153
 
Aetna Foundation Media Contact: Ethan Slavin, SlavinE@aetna.com, 860-273-6095

About U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A digital news and information company focused on Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars and News, USNews.com provides consumer advice, rankings and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all stages of life. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health (NYSE:CVS). For more information, visit www.aetnafoundation.org.
 

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2020 Healthiest Communities Rankings: Improving health through data

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Location, location, location.

It plays a fundamental role in determining the health, well-being, and life expectancy of the approximately 330 million Americans around the country. A key component to creating long-lasting improvements in population health lies in the collection and analysis of data to identify and address the diverse needs of specific communities across the country.

The Aetna Foundation's multi-year collaboration with U.S. News & World Report on the Healthiest Communities rankings does just that, by providing data-based insights on how counties around the country are minimizing chronic diseases and providing access to health care at lower costs.

A look at 2020

The rankings assessed nearly 3,000 counties nationwide in 10 crucial categories – Community Vitality; Equity; Economy; Education; Environment; Food & Nutrition; Population Health; Housing; Infrastructure; and Public Safety. This year’s rankings also applied new metrics to provide an in-depth look at the unprecedented impact of COVID -19, and its relationship to the social determinants of health in communities across America.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought attention to the existing disparities in our health care system that have a significant impact on underserved communities,” said Garth Graham, Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health.

“Using data from the Healthiest Communities rankings can help create insight on how to better address COVID-19 at the community level, while also helping health care organizations develop solutions to combat the health inequities that have historically plagued underserved communities.”

America’s healthiest communities

For 2020, the top five Healthiest Communities scored above the national average in at least eight of the 10 categories. Taking the top spot as the healthiest community in the United States is Los Alamos County, New Mexico. The community – with a population of approximately 17,000 people, and  known as a major site of the Manhattan Project in the 1940’s –  received perfect scores in 12 metrics, and ranked among the best for low racial segregation and low preventable hospital admissions. Los Alamos was second on the annual listing in 2019.

Where did your county rank on the list? Find out on US News & Word Report's county profiles and rankings.

For more information on Healthiest Communities, follow coverage on Facebook and Twitter using #HealthiestCommunities

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Aetna and Lyft to give schools access to essential rides for families

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Aetna, a CVS Health company (NYSE: CVS), today announced it will give $100,000 in essential rides for families in school districts around the country such as Chicago, Denver, Baltimore and Seattle, in collaboration with the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Lyft to help families this school year.  

Aetna Senior Vice President of Public and Labor Erich Twachtman explained, “By teaming up with NSBA and Lyft, Aetna is demonstrating our commitment to addressing the social determinants of health (including access to transportation) during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Specifically, this contribution will help public school students and their families prepare for whatever the new school year looks like during this extraordinary crisis.”

This collaboration is an expansion of LyftUp – Lyft’s comprehensive effort to expand transportation access to those who need it most. A significant challenge among these school district families is securing transportation to complete essential trips. “By activating LyftUp, we’re able to help them get to grocery stores and food banks and access other essential services,” said Lisa Boyd, director of Social Impact at Lyft. 

NSBA has identified high risk communities in targeted locations across the country who will benefit from this program. Here’s how the program works:

  • Transportation challenged families in rural and disadvantaged areas will receive Lyft codes.
  • The Lyft codes are valued at $20 and $40.
  • The codes have a 60-day expiration date but can be used multiple times within the sixty days until the full dollar amount has been used.

Students in need and their families can access the ride-sharing resources at www.lyft.com/lyftup.

“NSBA is happy to collaborate with Aetna to provide much needed support to public school students and families who are struggling during this pandemic,” said Anna Maria Chávez, National School Boards Association Executive Director & CEO. “We value our relationship with Aetna and Lyft and look forward to collaborating on future initiatives that expand opportunities and increase equitable access for our nation’s school children.”

About Aetna 

Aetna, a CVS Health business, serves an estimated 38 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental and behavioral health plans, and medical management capabilities, Medicaid health care management services, workers' compensation administrative services and health information technology products and services. Aetna's customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, health care providers, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, visit www.aetna.com and explore how Aetna is helping to build a healthier world. 

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Two communities find healthy solutions that work

Two communities find healthy solutions that work
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Welcome to Healthy Communities News — where we highlight communities that are finding innovative solutions to solve local health challenges. Our first episode features communities battling two common and persistent problems: food deserts and heart disease. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, the East End Pop Up Market gives residents easy access to fresh food for the first time in four decades. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, church leaders are mixing faith with fitness to stem the tide of heart disease and diabetes in their congregations.


New market gives Bridgeport residents access to fresh food

As the economy struggles and poverty rises in Bridgeport, manufacturing jobs are not the only thing leaving town: Residents have had to go farther and farther to find fresh food. But a group of local businesspeople is looking to reverse that trend. They’re opening the new East End Pop-Up Market, which will offer not only fresh food, but also job training and wellness workshops. It’s a solution that can be a model for food deserts across the country.


Bridgeport market gives entrepreneurs a jump start

Small businesses can revitalize neighborhoods – so the Bridgeport OIC is lending a hand to local entrepreneurs. We talk to Jeff Nelson of Seeding Knowledge, a start-up that plants and maintains gardens and sells produce. He’s expanding his services to the East End Pop-Up Market, where he’ll offer not only fruits and vegetables, but cooking classes and gardening instruction.


Faith begets fitness in Mecklenburg County

Faith leaders, county health officials, the local health system and community groups have proven that it takes a village to address local health issues. The Village HeartBEAT program created a fitness challenge in local congregations. The goal? To help residents battling heart disease and diabetes. The program uses exercise, nutrition and community gardens to help raise the spirits and lower the weight of participants.

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Addressing opioid use disorder through treatment centers instead of prisons

Addressing opioid use disorder through treatment centers instead of prisons
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Local people with local solutions — that’s what we’re all about at Healthy Communities News. In this episode, our host, Hilary Russo, travels to Virginia and North Carolina to check out two communities taking creative approaches to address opioid use disorder. We’ll hear about these innovative solutions from the folks on the ground putting them into action and get a glimpse into recovery from Wanda Jenkins, who is using her experience with opioid use disorder to help others.


A helping hand from someone who’s been there: Gina’s story

In this episode’s podcast, we meet Gina Musa, who advocates passionately for community members in rural North Carolina struggling with opioid use disorder. A former sex worker, Gina draws on her own experience with addiction and recovery to connect people with much-needed resources and support. Today, she is a Linkage to Care Coordinator for the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a job funded by an Aetna Foundation grant.

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The #1 killer of women: Shining a light on cardiovascular disease

The #1 killer of women: Shining a light on cardiovascular disease
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The number one killer of women is cardiovascular disease. This stark statistic is why the American Heart Association’s national “Go Red for Women” movement is so important. Healthy Communities News was on hand at their annual star-studded Red Dress Collection fashion show in New York City, where we got the opportunity to sit down with four heart disease and stroke survivors for a roundtable discussion. Hear their stories of recovery and hope — and why we need to talk about women’s heart health.


Taking a deep dive into heart health

You can be young, look and feel healthy and still be at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Surprised? Healthy Communities News spoke with Dr. Mosca, a volunteer medical expert with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, to get a better of understanding of women’s heart health. We also sat down with Jenny Petz and Nicole Murray, two of the inspiring heart disease and stroke survivors chosen for Go Red for Women’s 2020 class of Real Women to hear their powerful stories of survival and recovery.

Dr. Mosca, a volunteer medical expert with the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement.
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Community joins forces to live healthy in Miami’s Little Havana

Community joins forces to live healthy in Miami’s Little Havana
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Much like the neighborhood for which it is named, the Live Healthy Little Havana program is a mix of many different elements. It’s a community-led initiative, a partnership with the government, a collaboration with health organizations and an effort to improve resident/police relations — all rolled into one.

To really know what a community needs, you have to live there. Talk with your neighbors over the back fence. See the issues with your own eyes. That’s what makes the Live Healthy Little Havana program a success.

Neighborhood residents, working as community liaisons, are at the heart of the work to improve life for those in the community. And everyone’s got a seat at the table, from government representatives to health workers to lifelong residents. It’s a model that’s driving change — and one that other communities can replicate.

Live Healthy Little Havana participants are working on multiple fronts toward a single goal — to improve life for the residents of this storied community. We showed up at one of their events to hear about how it’s working — and watched as kids from the neighborhood vied to be the first to get the local police commander into the dunk tank.

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