The Aetna Foundation Helps Improve the Health of 25 Communities Nationwide Through More Than $2 Million in Grants

Grants will support improvements for more than 300,000 people as part of the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative

WASHINGTON--()--Approximately 60 percent of a person’s life expectancy is driven by factors outside of the doctor’s office – our individual behaviors, as well as social and environmental factors1. As part of its continued effort to address social determinants of health, the Aetna Foundation announced today more than $2 million in grants to 25 nonprofit organizations across the U.S., as part of its Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative.

Grants from the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative support organizations working to address social determinants of health, like access to healthy food and safe places to play. These grants are being made at a time when more than 42 million individuals in the United States live with food insecurity2 and one out of three adults is obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes3.

“Building a healthier world starts at the grassroots level, in communities committed to making a difference,” said Mark Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and the chairman and CEO of Aetna. “This year’s Cultivating Healthy Communities grantees are designing local solutions to local problems, and striving to improve the health of their communities.”

Bertolini will discuss the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative as part of his keynote session on November 2 at the U.S. News and World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow forum in Washington, D.C. His conversation with Brian Kelly, U.S. News editor and chief content officer, will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. Eastern. More information on the conference is available at

A key focus of the Cultivating Healthy Communities grants will be expanding access to spaces that promote active living and healthy eating. Nearly $1 million will support projects that will enhance the physical spaces people use in their everyday lives, such as routes for walking and biking, and the retail spaces or gardens that bring fresh foods to communities without easy access to grocery stores. The lack of sidewalks, bike paths and recreational areas in some communities discourages physical activity and contributes to obesity4. Not only are people in low-income and minority neighborhoods more likely to live in food deserts, they also have fewer recreational facilities than wealthier and predominantly white communities, a factor that may contribute to ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in obesity rates5.

In addition, minority groups are more at-risk for exposure to unhealthy air conditions. African-Americans, Latinos and Asians are the most likely to live in communities that are heavily affected by pollution and environmental hazards such as high concentrations of pesticides6. A total investment of $300,000 will support projects that are focused on reversing air quality disparities and decreasing exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Since 2016, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants through Cultivating Healthy Communities, which is a key part of the Foundation’s overall multimillion-dollar commitment to building a healthier world, community by community.

This year, grants have been awarded to the following programs:

Organization     Project Description     State Served

City of Phoenix Housing


Affordable bike-sharing for low-income residents who live
and work in the Edison-Eastlake Community in Phoenix


Friends of Public Radio
of Arizona


Digital media bullying and cyberbullying prevention

Rich City Rides    

Free bikes, educational workshops and ride celebrations to
Oakland-area residents


Institute for Community


Leadership development for urban teens engaged in creating
new options for accessing fresh foods in their communities


Jack & Jill Children's


Stress management, healthy eating and financially sound
decision-making in a predominantly African-American
neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale


Alachua County Board
of County
Commissioners -
Department of Court


Healthy lifestyle and gardening workshops for incarcerated
individuals participating in a work release program


University of
Florida/IFAS Extension
Clay County 4-H


Hands on urban-agricultural experience for Clay County


Miami Children's


Ten classes modeling nutrition and wellness strategies for
100 low-income families that have children in Head Start or
Early Head Start


East Central Florida
Regional Planning


Urban agriculture and bike repair activities to teach healthy
life and vocational skills to Holden Heights residents in


Farmworker Association
of Florida


Educational program focusing on chemical-free farming via
community gardens in Florida, New Jersey, and Washington

Concordia Place    

Nutrition and youth employment program for low-income
Chicago teenagers


Boston Public Health


Technical assistance and training for Boston’s hair and nail
salons, auto shops to prevent pollution and chemical




Leadership training to improve community health, for a large
focus on increasing walking and biking



Hopeworks ‘N Camden


Youth-driven program highlighting and encouraging use of
community resources for Camden residents through a
custom app designed by youth

    New Jersey

First Nations
Development Institute


Connecting tribal food retailers with suppliers from Native
owned local farms to increasing Native families’ access to
fresh foods

    New Mexico
The Doe Fund    

Access to healthy foods in disadvantaged communities and
food deserts in Brooklyn

    New York
Bountiful Cities    

Three organizations joining to improve food security through
educational programs in Asheville and Buncombe County

    North Carolina

Centralina Council of


Improvement of Charlotte’s dangerous road conditions
through on-the-ground demonstrations of cost-effective
traffic calming measures

    North Carolina

Guilford Child


Two generation integrated service system teaching families
about self-sufficiency

    North Carolina
Clean Air Council    

Resident-led program to improve air quality in Philadelphia’s
Kensington neighborhood


John Bartram


Utilization of 45-acre river garden in Southwest Philadelphia
to encourage active lifestyles and promote healthy eating


The SAFE Alliance
(SAFE | Stop Abuse For

    Safe and healthy relationships workshops for youth     Texas
It’s Time Texas    

Revamping of low-use public spaces into locales for fitness
classes and walking groups for people of all ages in high-need


University of Houston


Program to engage high-risk African-American and Latino
youth in mindful eating and exercise


Migrant Clinicians


Program to teach migrant farmworker families about how to
decrease their and their children’s exposure to harmful


About The Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE:AET). 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 volunteered 430,000 hours in 2016 alone. For more information, visit

1 Kaiser Family Foundation: “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity”.
2Feeding America: “Poverty and hunger in America”.
3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Adult Obesity Facts”.
4National Institutes of Health: “Obesity, physical activity, and the urban environment: public health research needs”.
5Harvard School of Public Health: “Environmental Barriers to Activity”.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report – United States, 2013”.


Aetna Media Contact:
Ethan Slavin, 860-273-6095

Release Summary

The Aetna Foundation announced more than $2 million in grants that will help improve the health of 25 communities nationwide.


Aetna Media Contact:
Ethan Slavin, 860-273-6095