WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Following its completed acquisition of Aetna, CVS Health has announced a $100 million commitment to making community health and wellness central to the newly combined company’s charge for a better world. The new Building Healthier Communities initiative, which will be funded over five years through the combined company as well as the CVS Health Foundation and Aetna Foundation, builds upon the outstanding tradition of community investment by both organizations and mobilizes their scale, combined capabilities and resources behind a unified strategy to deliver a measurable impact on the health of communities across the United States.
“We believe the path to better health and a better world can be reached by creating a whole new health care model that’s more local, affordable, and easier to use. And by strengthening our local support and community engagement, we can further improve the health of our communities,” said Larry Merlo, president and chief executive officer, CVS Health, during a speech today at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. “Our new commitment builds upon the exemplary track records of CVS Health and Aetna in supporting community-based organizations to ensure they have the most effective tools, resources and solutions to accelerate the improvement of health care for individuals and families across the country.”
Through Building Healthier Communities, CVS Health will invest $20 million annually across three funding categories to support a range of initiatives and non-profit organizations. These include:
Improving Local Access to Affordable Quality Care
Building on its local impact over the past decade, CVS Health will expand its Project Health campaign to target more underserved and underinsured communities beginning in 2019, with an aim of reaching more at-risk populations with free health and wellness screenings. Project Health offers a no-cost comprehensive health assessment, including blood pressure, Body Mass Index (BMI), glucose and total cholesterol screenings, which can detect early risks for chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Since it was founded in 2006, Project Health has delivered more than $127 million in free health care services to nearly 1.7 million Americans.
The expansion of Project Health will also do more to screen for social determinants of health that affect personal health and communities. About 60 percent of life expectancy is driven by behavioral, social and environmental factors including family, education, housing, and access to fresh food.1 Project Health events have a proven track record of improving patient engagement and ultimately, healthier outcomes. More than 87% of patients who attend Project Health events report following-up with their primary care physician and were significantly more likely to proactively discuss their blood pressure, BMI and blood sugar levels, according to the company’s own metrics.
In addition, Project Health events provide opportunities for our charitable partners to drive community members who seek access to care. All events are promoted among local organizations like the LGBT Center in Los Angeles, the YMCA of Metro Atlanta, ACCESS Michigan in Detroit, and The NAACP in Houston.
Through its Building Healthier Communities initiative, CVS Health will continue to make strategic investments that enable access for more people to local resources like Meals on Wheels, free clinics and community health centers. Through grant funding in 2019 to more than 100 free clinics and community health centers in the communities we serve, CVS Health can help address these social and health disparities.
Impacting Public Health Challenges
CVS Health will make significant investments in support of innovative approaches to managing chronic disease, including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. About 60 percent of Americans have at least one chronic disease, which accounts for 86 percent of health care spending.2 Funding will support partnership organizations uniquely positioned to tackle these public health challenges, including the American Cancer Society, American Lung Association and American Diabetes Association. Through best-in-class organizations like these, we can increase our local reach and meet people where they are. For example, we’re teaming up with the American Heart Association with a goal to improve the blood pressure of 3.5 million women by providing increased access to blood pressure screening and diagnostic tests. Through the initiative, more than $4 million has already been invested to add blood pressure kiosks in highly-trafficked, community-based locations in cities including: Baltimore, Md.; Charlotte, N.C.; College Station, Texas; Fort Worth, Texas; Houston, Texas; Kansas City, Mo.; Lancaster, Pa.; New York City, N.Y. Raleigh, N.C.; Twin Cities, Minn.; and Washington, D.C.
At the same time, CVS Health will continue to help tackle the nation’s opioid crisis as part of its new commitment. Funding will be directed to organizations that are innovating in the area of addiction treatment. For example, we’re partnering with Easterseals to prevent and mitigate prescription drug abuse among our nation’s veterans. Easterseals affiliates are in communities nationwide and are immersed in providing community-based care, including mental health and recovery services, for our nation’s veterans, their families and caregivers. Both CVS Health and Aetna have responded to this national epidemic in a variety of ways. Aetna was the first national insurer to waive co-pays for naloxone, the drug that reverses opioid overdoses. And in 48 states, CVS Health is dispensing naloxone with no individual prescription needed. Both companies also took the step to strengthen management of opioid prescriptions. As a result of these efforts, CVS Health has seen a nearly 72 percent drop in covered opioid prescriptions that go beyond a seven-day supply.
In addition, CVS Health’s leadership in helping youth lead tobacco-free lives will continue as part of the company’s Building Healthier Communities strategy. The company’s signature program, “Be The First” will continue to fund universities, women’s colleges, community colleges and Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) to go tobacco-free; e-cigarette education; tobacco control and healthy behavior programming through national and local partnerships including, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CATCH Global Foundation, CDC, and Truth Initiative with a goal of helping deliver the nation’s first tobacco-free generation.
Partnering with Local Communities
Through the Aetna Foundation and its collaboration with U.S. News & World Report, CVS Health will support the Healthiest Communities rankings, a groundbreaking report that evaluates the health of nearly 3,000 communities nationwide across 10 categories, from education and population health to infrastructure and economy. In addition to assessing which communities offer their citizens the greatest opportunity to live a productive, healthy life, the rankings, which were first released in 2018, identify the best approaches for improving public health that can be shared and implemented across the country.
While the Healthiest Communities rankings help identify critical needs of individual communities, the CVS Health Foundation and Aetna Foundation will continue supporting community-driven solutions that address social determinants of health and help make improvements in important public health issues. By supporting organizations that are dedicated to enhancing important factors that contribute to the well-being of communities, such as safe outdoor spaces, affordable transportation, and access to fresh fruits and vegetables, the company’s philanthropic efforts can have a significant impact on health issues such as the opioid epidemic, food insecurity and inequities in health care. The communities supported by Aetna Foundation grantees are already seeing positive outcomes, such as bringing new healthy food access points to within a mile of more than 1.6 million people and revitalizing public spaces to create new walkable destinations within a half-mile of more than 527,000 people.
These outcomes are due to the work being done by community-based organization who are working at the neighborhood level to deliver local impact. Organizations such as: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Broward County, Florida, which tackles high rates of racial/ethnic disparities in maternal/child health; FoodLab Detroit, which is focused on strengthening Detroit’s regional food system by creating a new food economy; and Go Austin/Vamos Austin, which promotes resident-led improvements to healthy foods and living environments. We will also expand initiatives utilizing community assets such as barbershops to improve hypertension in African American communities, launch new partnerships for multi-generational learning to improve health outcomes in high risk communities, and facilitate cross-sector collaboration among key stakeholders at the city and county levels.
In addition, CVS Health and Aetna employees have pledged a minimum $10 millionin value of volunteer hours each year, offering their time and expertise to creating healthier, more sustainable communities. CVS Health and Aetna support these efforts through a robust volunteer platform where colleagues can volunteer regularly, and get involved with a range of local partner organizations to help address unmet health and social needs.
“Health starts at the community level. By combining the capabilities and philanthropic resources of CVS Health and Aetna, we can engage and empower local communities to address their unique health care needs and make a real difference,” added Merlo. “Ultimately, we’re aspiring to deliver better health care which in turn creates better communities and a better world.”
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