The Challenge was launched in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), empowering 50 small-to-mid-sized cities and counties nationwide to make measurable, scalable improvements to public health issues in their local communities. Since its inception, the Challenge awarded a total of $1.5 million in grants and prizes to the 50 participating programs to support their efforts to tackle the most pressing health issues facing their communities. In addition to the two grand prize winners, eight programs were designated as runners up in recognition of their achievements, each receiving prizes ranging from $25,000 – $50,000 to help continue their work.
The awarding of the Challenge prizes, funded by the Aetna Foundation, is part of a $100 million commitment by CVS Health and its affiliates to making community health and wellness central to the company’s charge for a better world. The new Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years by CVS Health and the CVS Health and Aetna Foundations, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by CVS Health and Aetna and helps to advance CVS Health’s purpose of helping people on their path to better health.
“In order to solve our most pressing public health issues, we have to start at the local level acknowledging that the solutions to our problems are as diverse as the communities facing them,” said Karen S. Lynch, Executive Vice President, CVS Health and President, Aetna. “These communities are able to get to the heart of their unique challenges and create impactful programs that we hope can be replicated in other communities nationwide.”
Over the course of the Challenge, both winners improved local health outcomes with strong, scalable results:
In Mecklenburg County, NC, the African-American population is disproportionately impacted by cardiovascular disease by nearly 20 percent compared to their white counterparts. To combat this, Village HeartBEAT (VHB) activated more than 60 local faith-based organizations to help over 20,000 local residents access health resources to reduce cardiovascular risk. As a result, VHB reduced smoking in the community from 17.4 percent to 13.9 percent and obesity rates from 70 percent to 64.7 percent.
Bridgeport (CT) CURE/ East End Neighborhood Revitalization Zone (NRZ) addressed decades of food insecurity and public mistrust through development of a pop-up market in a documented food desert, improving availability of healthy foods, living wage jobs and sparking greater community cohesiveness. Over the past three years, Bridgeport CURE secured more than 53,000 volunteer hours and leveraged strong cross-sector partnerships to overcome major policy obstacles.
“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.”
The first cohort of Challenge participants were chosen out of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities that applied to enter the competition. Improvements were measured around at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures. The Challenge winners and runners up were selected with assistance from an Advisory Council of public health leaders including elected officials, professors and physicians. RAND Corporation was tapped to evaluate the improvements in social determinants of health achieved and identify the most promising practices with potential for replication.
“Our winners and runners up have demonstrated the ability of counties to transform the communities they support,” said NACo president Greg Cox. “Organizations and leaders at the county level are in a unique position to champion the needs of local residents and join community partners in the effort to improve health outcomes for all residents to make a positive health impact.”