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Aetna Foundation’s Spotlight Award shines the “Spotlight” on Programs that are Improving Community Health

PG 4 Miami Photo 7 - Aetna Foundation’s Spotlight Award shines the “Spotlight” on Programs that are Improving Community Health

From Complete Streets to Community Gardens: 10 Cities and Counties Recognized for Programs Making Progress in Addressing Social Determinants of Health

The Aetna Foundation today announced 10 community health programs nationwide that are receiving their newly-launched “Spotlight Award.” The award is part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (the Challenge), an initiative launched in 2016 that supports 50 small-to-midsize cities and counties that are implementing innovative solutions to pressing public health issues in their communities. Along with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), the Aetna Foundation selected these 50 programs because of their ability to tackle social determinants of health (SDoH) that frequently lead to chronic health issues.

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The 10Spotlight awardees will receive a $25,000 prize to further support their Challenge programs, which will help build sustainable models that can be used in other communities. In addition, five more organizations will receive a $10,000 prize as Honorable Mention awardees to help accelerate and advance their work. Some of the notable achievements from awardees include:

  • The iGrow Food Network distributed more than 100 pounds of produce grown in local community gardens during the summer of 2017, reaching more than one-third of the target population in food deserts in Tallahassee, Florida.
  • Walk Works ChesCo! created new walking routes in Chester County, Pennsylvania to encourage residents to walk more and adopt a healthier lifestyle. The community successfully reached their goal of walking one billion steps in 2017 in just six months.

“Where a person lives has a profound impact on how they live – particularly when it comes to their health,” said Mark T. Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and chairman and CEO of Aetna. “The Spotlight Award recipients are outstanding examples of how important progress can be made when communities work together to look at the biggest issues facing their neighborhoodsand develop healthy, home-grown solutions.”

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Through the Challenge, $1.5 million in prizes will be awarded to cities and counties that are able to show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships.The Challenge is designed to enable participants to share successful health improvement strategies with othercommunities.

“Since the Challenge launched, we have seen numerous improvements and advancements in the health of the 50 participating communities,” said APHA executive director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “The Spotlight Awards are a moment to showcase the innovative work being done in cities and counties to address social determinants of health.”


The goal of the Spotlight Award is to highlight earlysuccess stories from participants thathave demonstrated significant progress since the launch of the Challenge. The selected programs have identified creative partnerships and enacted programs that address the unique health issues facing their communities in meaningful ways.

“Communities invest heavily in local residents’ health and well-being, often serving as a safety net for low-income and vulnerable residents,” said NACo president Roy Charles Brooks. “We know just as each community is unique, so too are the health challenges they face. These award winners are examples of what can be achieved when counties work with community partners to solve serious, complex public health issues.”

In 2016, the Challenge chose 50 cities and counties as HealthyCommunity50 members based on their plans to improve local health outcomes. The HealthyCommunity50 continue to compete for overall Challenge prize awards ranging from $25,000 - $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other.

SpotlightAward Winners

Lead Entity Program Program GoalState Served
Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach EquityIncrease health equity


Florida Department of HealthiGrow Food NetworkDecrease food inequality


City of MiamiLive Healthy Little HavanaIncrease health care accessFlorida
Louisville/Jefferson County Metro GovernmentWest Louisville Outdoor Recreation InitiativeIncrease mental wellness and healthy behaviorsKentucky
Coopers Ferry PartnershipThe SMART InitiativeIncrease water qualityNew Jersey
Chatham County Public Health DepartmentChatham Health AllianceDecrease obesityNorth Carolina
Mecklenburg County Health DepartmentVillage HeartBEATDecrease heart diseaseNorth Carolina


Waco-McLennan County Public Health DistrictThe Heart of Texas Urban Gardening CoalitionIncrease access to, and consumption of, fresh foodsTexas
Danville Pittsylvania County United FundHealth CollaborativeIncrease healthy livingVirginia
Thurston County Public Health & Social ServicesActive Design for a Healthier Thurston CountyIncrease walkabilityWashington

Honorable Mention:

Name of Organization ProgramProgram Goal State Served
City of St. PetersburgFood is MedicineIncrease access, availability and procurement of healthy foodsFlorida
Baltimore City Health DepartmentBe Well, B’MoreIncrease physical activity


City of Jersey CityBlue Print for Violence ReductionIncrease healthy behaviors to decrease violenceNew Jersey
Duke University: Durham and Cabarrus CountiesThe North Carolina Healthiest Counties Cross-Sector TeamIncrease health equityNorth Carolina
Chester CountyWalk Works ChesCo!Increase walkingPennsylvania

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


The Aetna Foundationis the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET). Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. As a national health foundation, we promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone. This work is enhanced by the time and commitment of Aetna employees, who have volunteered 3.8 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit

PG 4 Miami Photo 5 225x300 - Aetna Foundation’s Spotlight Award shines the “Spotlight” on Programs that are Improving Community HealthThe American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, share the latest research and information, promote best practices and advocate for public health issues and policies grounded in research. We are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at

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

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