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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A look back: 2019 Healthy Communities News

A look back: 2019 Healthy Communities News
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Not all heroes wear capes. Some monitor blood pressure in barbershops. Some fight opioid misuse and addiction in the streets. And some provide training to help their neighbors find meaningful work. At Healthy Communities News, we talk to folks who are improving health in towns and cities across the country. Here’s a sampling of the inspiring stories we were privileged to tell this year. We look forward to introducing you to even more local heroes in 2020!


A look back at our Healthy Communities News podcast

Workforce training that takes a single mom of five from homeless to hopeful in Cleveland. Students debating how to go tobacco-free on a Philadelphia campus. These are two of the exciting stories we’ve covered this past year on our Healthy Communities News podcast. And now you can sample them all on our year-end episode. Whether it’s been about faith leaders joining forces with their congregants to shed weight, or a former sex worker who draws upon her own hard-earned experience with opioids to help others struggling with addiction and recovery, we’ve gone around the country to shine a light on people and programs who are bringing change to their communities. We hope they will inspire you, and we look forward to bringing you more stories of hope this coming year.

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Building trust and rebuilding a community in Louisville

Building trust and rebuilding a community in Louisville
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Healthy Communities News spotlights local people with local solutions to health challenges in their communities. In Louisville, Kentucky, the shadow of segregation and the city’s past reluctance to invest in a historically black community have left many residents distrustful of government. But now, a group of longtime residents are driving efforts to help revitalize their neighborhood — and they’re doing it in partnership with the government. Together, they are creating programs like the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative — which, among other things, helps local kids learn about and experience nature. Because many local families don’t have easy access to parks or forests, the initiative brings nature to the children with a project called ECHO — Engaging Children in the Outdoors. We visited Louisville to learn more.

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Job training for underserved communities in Cleveland

Job training for underserved communities in Cleveland
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People in underserved communities often have trouble getting the job skills they need to find stable employment. That’s why CVS Health launched the Workforce Innovation and Talent Center in Cleveland. The Center provides hands-on training and other resources – like transportation, childcare and housing – to help people find meaningful employment in the health care industry. By helping keep people financially healthy, CVS Health is also helping to build healthier communities across the country.


Workforce Innovation Center’s support takes single mom from homeless to hopeful

In this episode’s podcast, we meet Carrie Robinson, who is a 28-year-old single mom living outside of Cleveland, Ohio. She’s a pharmacy technician — but not too long ago, she and her five kids found themselves homeless. She shared her story about how CVS Health’s Workforce Innovation and Talent Center changed her life. The centers provide people in under served communities with the training, resources and support network they need to be successful. Like Carrie.

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Helping colleges quit tobacco

Helping colleges quit tobacco
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At Healthy Communities News, we spotlight the people and places that are tackling local health challenges in impactful ways. The University of San Francisco (USF) is one of over 200 colleges and universities adopting policies to eliminate tobacco from their campuses as part of the CVS Health Foundation Tobacco-Free Campus Initiative. It’s a part of the $50 million commitment to help deliver the first tobacco-free generation launched by CVS Health soon after it quit selling tobacco products five years ago. We visited USF to see what a tobacco-free campus looks like and sat down with students, staff and our partner at the American Cancer Society for their thoughts on going 100 percent smoke- and tobacco-free.


Students talk tobacco: Getting real with Temple University and Truth Initiative

With 99 percent of smokers beginning by the age of 26, college is a critical time to prevent the start of life-long addiction to nicotine and tobacco. Temple University in Philadelphia went smoke- and tobacco-free in July of 2019. We sat down with a group of their students for a candid conversation on how the program is going in its early days. We also chatted with Robin Koval, CEO and president of Truth Initiative, a national public health organization focused on youth tobacco prevention known for its edgy, award-winning “Truth” campaign.

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