Sunday April 21, 2024
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Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association And The National Association Of Counties Unveil Winners Of National Health Challenge

As part of an ongoing commitment to supporting community health and wellness, the Aetna Foundation today announced the winners of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (the Challenge).

Louisville Metro’s West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI_was selected as a runner-up to grant-prize winner, Charlotte, North Carolina (Mecklenburg, County) in the mid-sized city or county category (population 250,001 – 600,000 The WLORI is a multi-sector, grant-funded initiative, based at Jefferson Memorial Forest to create equitable access in west Louisville through expansion of Louisville ECHO (Louisville is Engaging Children Outdoors) programming and implementation of proposed outdoor recreation infrastructure improvements. 

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.

As a runner-up, Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation, WLORI initiative-owner, received a $50,000 prize which will increase capacity for Louisville ECHO programming in 2019.

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, Louisville’s efforts improved local health outcomes with strong, scalable results:

  • Expanded youth participation across all out-of-school time (OST) activities, including the ECHO Mobile, to serve an additional 840 children ages 3 to 14;
  • Increased the average hours spent in nature by summer OST participants to 9.7 hours ;
  • Engaged an additional 140 youth and families (47% increase) through the annual Canoemobile that introduced families to canoeing on the Ohio River.
  • Launched new ECHO job-training component in 2017 to provide young adults from priority neighborhoods with summer employment and training in environmental education, recreation, and stewardship programs.

The West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative and associated Louisville ECHO programming is a great example of how Metro Agencies, such as Parks and the Center for Health Equity, are working together with community partners to address social determinants of health, said Louisville Metro Chief of Community Building, Vincent James. 

“It is important that we recognize and understand that health equity is everybody’s work.  The fates of all in our community are intertwined, and the power of united action is making a difference in the lives of every citizen. The ECHO program affords us the opportunity to leverage our greatest asset “people” to engage in transformative action that allows us the ability to produce better health outcomes,” James said.

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.” 

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