The Aetna Foundation’s support is happening at a critical time.
As part of its continued commitment to address social determinants of health (SDOH), the Aetna Foundation today announced it has awarded more than $2.4 million in grants to 25 nonprofits across the U.S. as part of its larger Building Healthy Communities initiative. The funding was announced today by Aetna Foundation President, Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH, in Washington, D.C. at The Equity of Health, an event held in conjunction with The Atlantic Festival.
The Aetna Foundation’s support is happening at a critical time when the medical community is placing greater emphasis on SDOH. A person’s genetic makeup only accounts for 30 percent of their overall health, while factors outside the doctor’s office such as access to economic opportunities, healthy food options, and safe spaces influence as much as 60 percent of an individual’s health.
Increasing Access to Healthy Foods at School & at Home
Among these awards are two grants to support access to nutritious meals in vulnerable populations. Meals on Wheels America has been awarded a $174,000 grant to provide adequate nutrition for seniors at risk of malnutrition following hospitalization. In addition, Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign has been awarded a $225,000 grant to increase access to free school breakfasts for 10,000 students in Texas and Florida schools.
Insufficient access to nutrition is linked to poor health and social outcomes. Childhood food insecurity, which affects 1 in 6 children2 nationally, has been linked to increased hospitalizations, stunted development, and reduced test scores in school3. Additionally, inadequate food access affects 1 in 12 seniors4 nationally. Food insecure seniors are 78 percent more likely to experience depression4 and have greater use of healthcare services and related costs5.
Supporting Community Impact
Also included in this year’s awards are 23 grants totaling more than $2 million made through the Cultivating Healthy Communities (CHC) initiative, which directly support resident-driven projects focused on making measurable improvements in the health outcomes of communities. The grants are being made at a time when low-income, nonwhite communities are disproportionately burdened by chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and diabetes6, and more than half of all avoidable deaths in the U.S. are caused by behavior factors7, which are directly shaped by SDOH.
“We know there’s no single solution to building a healthy community,” said Karen Lynch, a member of the Board of the Directors for the Aetna Foundation and President of Aetna. “In order to make a real, lasting impact, we must empower the organizations on the ground, who understand the unique needs and challenges of that community, with the tools they need to create and implement local solutions.”
This year, CHC funding is focused on projects in which residents have a lead role in designing and implementing the activities. Youth empowerment is a specific priority, with more than $800,000 awarded to projects that will mobilize youth leaders to address community health concerns. In addition, awards totaling more than $750,000 have been designated for projects that seek to promote health through changes to local policy.
Since 2016, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more $6 million in grants through the CHC program, which is a cornerstone of their multimillion-dollar commitment to Building Healthy Communities.
This year, grants have been awarded to the following projects:
1 – Kaiser Family Foundation, “Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity” https://www.kff.org/disparities-policy/issue-brief/beyond-health-care-the-role-of-social-determinants-in-promoting-health-and-health-equity/
2 – United States Department of Agriculture, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2017” https://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-details/?pubid=90022
3—RTI, “Hunger and Food Insecurity in America: A Review of Current Research” https://www.rti.org/sites/default/files/resources/full_hunger_report_final_07-24-14.pdf
4 – Feeding America, “The State of Senior Hunger and Health in America” http://www.feedingamerica.org/research/senior-hunger-research/state-of-senior-hunger-and-health-2015.pdf
5— Meals on Wheels America “Hunger in Older Adults – Opportunities and Challenges for the Aging Services Network” https://www.mealsonwheelsamerica.org/theissue/research/hunger-in-older-adults
6 – NCBI, “Sociodemographic Patterns of Chronic Disease” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5171223/
7 – NCBI, “Measuring the Risks and Causes of Premature Death: Summary of Workshops” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25834864
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 520,000 hours in 2017 alone. For more information, visit www.aetnafoundation.org.
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