Aetna Announces Winners of Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

Aetna Announces Winners of Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge

The Hartford-based Aetna Foundation has announced the winners of its Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge.

Launched in partnership with the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, the program supports the efforts of small to midsize cities and counties working to tackle the most pressing health issues in their communities. This year, in addition to two grand-prize winners, eight programs were designated as runners-up and will each receive prizes ranging from $25,000 to $50,000 in support of their work.

This year's grand prize ($500,000) in the midsize city or county category was awarded to the Mecklenburg County Health Department in North Carolina for its Village HeartBEAT program, which, in partnership with more than sixty local faith-based organizations, helped over twenty thousand local residents, many of them African American, access resources designed to reduce cardiovascular risk factors such as smoking and obesity. As a result of the program, smoking in the community was reduced from 17.4 percent of the population to 13.9 percent and the obesity rate declined from 70 percent to 64.7 percent. And the grand prize ($250,000) in the small city and county category was awarded to the Coalition United to Reach Equity (CURE) in Bridgeport, Connecticut, for its East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone program, which establishes small markets and cafes in known food deserts in the city, with the goal of generating community connectedness, encouraging healthy eating habits, and addressing chronic food insecurity.

"While every community faces unique health issues, we know a lot can be accomplished when cities and counties join forces," said APHA executive director Georges C. Benjamin. "It is our hope that these two programs, along with the rest of the challenge participants, will inspire others and serve as models of success and progress for communities around the country who face similar health issues."