Approximately 60 percent of a person's life expectancy is driven by factors outside of the doctor's office - our individual behaviors, as well as social and environmental factors 1. As part of its continued effort to address social determinants of health, the Aetna Foundation announced today more than $2 million in grants to 25 nonprofit organizations across the U.S., as part of its Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative.

Grants from the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative support organizations working to address social determinants of health, like access to healthy food and safe places to play. These grants are being made at a time when more than 42 million individuals in the United States live with food insecurity 2 and one out of three adults is obese, putting them at risk for heart disease, stroke and type two diabetes 3.

"Building a healthier world starts at the grassroots level, in communities committed to making a difference," said Mark Bertolini, the chairman of the Aetna Foundation and the chairman and CEO of Aetna. "This year's Cultivating Healthy Communities grantees are designing local solutions to local problems, and striving to improve the health of their communities."

Bertolini will discuss the Cultivating Healthy Communities initiative as part of his keynote session on November 2 at the U.S. News and World Report Healthcare of Tomorrow forum in Washington, D.C. His conversation with Brian Kelly, U.S. News editor and chief content officer, will begin at approximately 1:45 p.m. Eastern. More information on the conference is available at

A key focus of the Cultivating Healthy Communities grants will be expanding access to spaces that promote active living and healthy eating. Nearly $1 million will support projects that will enhance the physical spaces people use in their everyday lives, such as routes for walking and biking, and the retail spaces or gardens that bring fresh foods to communities without easy access to grocery stores. The lack of sidewalks, bike paths and recreational areas in some communities discourages physical activity and contributes to obesity 4. Not only are people in low-income and minority neighborhoods more likely to live in food deserts, they also have fewer recreational facilities than wealthier and predominantly white communities, a factor that may contribute to ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in obesity rates 5.

In addition, minority groups are more at-risk for exposure to unhealthy air conditions. African-Americans, Latinos and Asians are the most likely to live in communities that are heavily affected by pollution and environmental hazards such as high concentrations of pesticides 6. A total investment of $300,000 will support projects that are focused on reversing air quality disparities and decreasing exposure to dangerous chemicals.

Since 2016, the Aetna Foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants through Cultivating Healthy Communities, which is a key part of the Foundation's overall multimillion-dollar commitment to building a healthier world, community by community.

This year, grants have been awarded to the following programs:

Organization     Project Description     State Served

City of Phoenix HousingDepartment

Affordable bike-sharing for low-income residents who liveand work in the Edison-Eastlake Community in Phoenix

Friends of Public Radioof Arizona

Digital media bullying and cyberbullying preventioncampaign
Rich City Rides    

Free bikes, educational workshops and ride celebrations toOakland-area residents

Institute for CommunityResearch

Leadership development for urban teens engaged in creatingnew options for accessing fresh foods in their communities

Jack & Jill Children'sCenter

Stress management, healthy eating and financially sounddecision-making in a predominantly African-Americanneighborhood in Fort Lauderdale

Alachua County Boardof CountyCommissioners -Department of CourtServices

Healthy lifestyle and gardening workshops for incarceratedindividuals participating in a work release program

University ofFlorida/IFAS ExtensionClay County 4-H

Hands on urban-agricultural experience for Clay Countyyouth

Miami Children'sMuseum

Ten classes modeling nutrition and wellness strategies for100 low-income families that have children in Head Start orEarly Head Start

East Central FloridaRegional PlanningCouncil

Urban agriculture and bike repair activities to teach healthylife and vocational skills to Holden Heights residents inOrlando

Farmworker Associationof Florida

Educational program focusing on chemical-free farming viacommunity gardens in Florida, New Jersey, and Washingtonstate
Concordia Place    

Nutrition and youth employment program for low-incomeChicago teenagers

Boston Public HealthCommission

Technical assistance and training for Boston's hair and nailsalons, auto shops to prevent pollution and chemicalexposures


Leadership training to improve community health, for a largefocus on increasing walking and biking


Hopeworks 'N CamdenInc

Youth-driven program highlighting and encouraging use ofcommunity resources for Camden residents through acustom app designed by youth
    New Jersey

First NationsDevelopment Institute

Connecting tribal food retailers with suppliers from Nativeowned local farms to increasing Native families' access tofresh foods
    New Mexico
The Doe Fund    

Access to healthy foods in disadvantaged communities andfood deserts in Brooklyn
    New York
Bountiful Cities    

Three organizations joining to improve food security througheducational programs in Asheville and Buncombe County
    North Carolina

Centralina Council ofGovernments

Improvement of Charlotte's dangerous road conditionsthrough on-the-ground demonstrations of cost-effectivetraffic calming measures
    North Carolina

Guilford ChildDevelopment

Two generation integrated service system teaching familiesabout self-sufficiency
    North Carolina
Clean Air Council    

Resident-led program to improve air quality in Philadelphia'sKensington neighborhood

John BartramAssociation

Utilization of 45-acre river garden in Southwest Philadelphiato encourage active lifestyles and promote healthy eating

The SAFE Alliance(SAFE | Stop Abuse ForEveryone)
    Safe and healthy relationships workshops for youth     Texas
It's Time Texas    

Revamping of low-use public spaces into locales for fitnessclasses and walking groups for people of all ages in high-needneighborhoods

University of HoustonFoundation

Program to engage high-risk African-American and Latinoyouth in mindful eating and exercise

Migrant CliniciansNetwork

Program to teach migrant farmworker families about how todecrease their and their children's exposure to harmfulpesticides

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 430,000 hours in 2016 alone. For more information, visit

1 Kaiser Family Foundation: "Beyond Health Care: The Role of Social Determinants in Promoting Health and Health Equity". 2Feeding America: "Poverty and hunger in America". 3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Adult Obesity Facts". 4National Institutes of Health: "Obesity, physical activity, and the urban environment: public health research needs". 5Harvard School of Public Health: "Environmental Barriers to Activity". 6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "CDC Health Disparities and Inequalities Report - United States, 2013".

View source version on

Copyright Business Wire 2010