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Challenge accepted: 50 cities and counties aim to improve community health

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Despite being armed with the facts — that diet and exercise are essential in preventative care — some of us still need a little more motivation than others to make healthier choices.

The Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties want to help. As such, the three organizations have recognized the HealthyCommunity50 that will move on to compete for a grand prize in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge. These select cities and counties will receive a $10,000 community seed award to implement a program able to show measurable improvements around key social determinants of health.

"Approximately 90% of the factors affecting risk of premature death exist outside of a doctor’s office or hospital," said Mark T. Bertolini, Aetna chairman and CEO. "The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge supports communities that are working to address and improve these factors and build a healthier world, community by community."

The challenge, a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, APHA and NACo, in collaboration with CEOs for Cities, is designed to create economically competitive, inclusive and equitable communities. It will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and midsize cities and counties that are able to show measurable improvements in health outcomes over the course of several years through cross-sector partnerships.

HealthyCommunity50 members will share experiences and best practices throughout the competition via a learning network so other communities can, hopefully, replicate those efforts.

The HealthyCommunity50 were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities. An expert advisory board selected these groups to continue to the next phase of the challenge based on plans to improve the health of their communities. Improvements will be measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures.

An expert panel will conduct site visits to all HealthyCommunity50 members to understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the challenge, the programs that are most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 to $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against one another.

"Local governments drive health improvements, and counties have developed innovative approaches to transform the health of communities across the nation," said NACo president Bryan Desloge. "County leaders are learning by example and putting best practices into action. We're excited about participating in the HealthyCommunity50 and look forward to applying the lessons learned to promote healthy communities in counties across the nation." 

The HealthyCommunity50 are:

Name of Lead Organization

State Served

Program Goal

Anchorage Park Foundation

Alaska

Increase outdoor physical activity

City of Avondale

Arizona

Increase access to recreational programs

County of San Diego

California

Increase health equity

City of Perris

California

Increase access to healthy foods

Greater Bridgeport Opportunities Industrialization Center Inc.

Connecticut

Increase health equity

New Haven Health Department

Connecticut

Decrease childhood asthma

City of Miami

Florida

Increase health care access

Florida Department of Health

Florida

Decrease food inequality

City of St. Petersburg

Florida

Increase access, availability and procurement of healthy foods

Hillsborough County MPO

Florida

Increase access to healthy foods

Healthy Savannah

Georgia

Increase healthy eating and health equity

Polk County Housing Trust Fund

Iowa

Decrease childhood asthma

DeKalb County Community Gardens

Illinois

Increase access to healthy foods

Kane County Health Department

Illinois

Increase community engagement

Building a Thriving Compassionate Community (BTCC)

Indiana

Increase children’s health conditions

Jump IN for Healthy Kids

Indiana

Decrease childhood obesity

Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government

Kentucky

Increase mental wellness and healthy behaviors

Unified Government of Wyandotte County/Kansas City

Kansas

Increase walkability

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Massachusetts

Increase walkability and bikeability

Baltimore City Health Department

Maryland

Increase physical activity

Ingham County Health Department

Michigan

Increase smoke-free living

Independence Health Department

Missouri

Decrease tobacco exposure in housing units

City of Kansas City Missouri Health Department

Missouri

Decrease youth and domestic violence rates

Mississippi State University: Gulfport

Mississippi

Increase healthy food choices in youth

Chatham County Public Health Department

North Carolina

Decrease obesity

Davidson County

North Carolina

Increase healthy eating and physical activity

Duke University: Durham and Cabarrus Counties

North Carolina

Increase health equity

Mecklenburg County Health Department

North Carolina

Decrease heart disease

University of Nebraska Board of Regents: Dodge, Saunders and Washington Counties

Nebraska

Increase healthy eating and health equity

City of Jersey City

New Jersey

Increase healthy behaviors to decrease violence

Coopers Ferry Partnership

New Jersey

Increase water quality

Sandoval Health Collaborative

New Mexico

Increase family nutrition and physical activity

Dutchess County Government

New York

Increase healthy living and employment opportunities

Union Community Health Center

New York

Decrease obesity

Cleveland Department of Public Health

Ohio

Decrease tobacco use in youth and adults

Franklin County Public Health

Ohio

Increase comprehensive healthy living

Tulsa City-County Health Department

Oklahoma

Increase access to healthy foods

Chester County

Pennsylvania

Increasing walking

Crispus Attucks Association, York County

Pennsylvania

Increase healthy housing

Allentown Health Bureau

Pennsylvania

Increase physical activity

Blair County Planning Commission

Pennsylvania

Increase community development

Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights at the Miriam Hospital

Rhode Island

Decrease prison re-entry

Mary Black Foundation, Inc.

South Carolina

Decrease obesity in schools and the community

City of Brownsville

Texas

Increase access to community gardens

Waco-McLennan County Public Health District

Texas

Increase access to, and consumption of, fresh foods

Wichita County Public Health District

Texas

Decrease childhood obesity

Danville Pittsylvania County United Fund

Virginia

Increase healthy living

Lenowisco Health District

Virginia

Increase healthy living

Thurston County Public Health & Social Services

Washington

Increase walkability

West Virginia University, Morgantown

West Virginia

Increase mental wellness

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