Get the latest delivered to your inbox
Privacy Policy

Now Reading

Aetna Foundation’s New Awards Shine 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

Aetna Foundation’s New Awards Shine 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

Published 01-31-18

Submitted by Aetna Foundation

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.

The 10 Spotlight 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 neighborhoods and develop healthy, home-grown solutions.”

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 other communities.

“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 early success stories from participants that have 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. 

Spotlight Award Winners

Lead Entity


Program Goal

State Served

Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.

Bridgeport Coalition United to Reach Equity

Increase health equity



Florida Department of Health

iGrow Food Network

Decrease food inequality



City of Miami

Live Healthy Little Havana

Increase health care access


Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government

West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative

Increase mental wellness and healthy behaviors


Coopers Ferry Partnership

The SMART Initiative

Increase water quality  

New Jersey

Chatham County Public Health Department

Chatham Health Alliance

Decrease obesity

North Carolina

Mecklenburg County Health Department

Village HeartBEAT

Decrease heart disease

North Carolina


Waco-McLennan County Public Health District

The Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition

Increase access to, and consumption of, fresh foods


Danville Pittsylvania County United Fund

Health Collaborative

Increase healthy living


Thurston County Public Health & Social Services

Active Design for a Healthier Thurston County

Increase walkability


Honorable Mention:

Name of Organization


Program Goal

State Served

City of St. Petersburg

Food is Medicine

Increase access, availability and procurement of healthy foods


Baltimore City Health Department

Be Well, B’More

Increase physical activity



City of Jersey City

Blue Print for Violence Reduction

Increase healthy behaviors to decrease violence

New Jersey

Duke University: Durham and Cabarrus Counties

The North Carolina Healthiest Counties Cross-Sector Team

Increase health equity

North Carolina

Chester County

Walk Works ChesCo!

Increase walking


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


The Aetna Foundation is 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 

The 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

Aetna Foundation logo

Aetna Foundation

Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation is dedicated to improving health in local communities and large populations alike. How do we make it happen? Through community-based programs, dynamic partnerships and proven models that can help people accelerate progress everywhere.

More from Aetna Foundation

Join today and get the latest delivered to your inbox