Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge

Date: Apr 04 2016

For more information, contact Daniel Greenberg, 202-777-3913

The Aetna Foundation, American Public Health Association and National Association of Counties challenge cities, counties and tribes to create economically competitive, inclusive and equitable communities

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to offer $1.5 million in prizes

Washington, D.C., April 4, 2016 —The Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, in partnership with CEOs for Cities, today announce the launch of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, which will award $1.5 million in prizes to cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that show measurable improvements in health indicators and social determinants of health. The announcement will be made today during this year’s National Public Health Week kick-off event in Washington, D.C.

“This Challenge is designed to help our cities and counties create an environment that fosters productive, happy human beings,” said Mark Bertolini, chairman and CEO of Aetna. “By improving living conditions, access to healthy foods, education and job opportunities, we can build a healthier world.”

Participating cities, counties and tribes will focus on at least one of five domains: healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures. Within those domains, participants will be judged based on a variety of metrics already in use within the public health field. Challenge participants will also be evaluated on their ability to form cross-sector partnerships — a key ingredient and a critical foundation for sustainable and lasting change. An expert advisory board has been selected to judge Challenge finalists and includes representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AARP and the Urban Land Institute.

“The big health threats we face today can’t be solved by one sector alone,” said APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD. “Instead, we need to build partnerships that reflect the many societal factors that impact our health and our opportunity to make healthy choices. Whether it’s creating affordable housing, preventing community violence or ensuring safe drinking water, multi-sector partnerships coupled with community-driven leadership have the potential to transform the way we think about good health and well-being.”   

Several cities and counties have already signed on to participate in the Challenge as early adopters. Their proposals offer ways to provide more equitably access to fruits and vegetables, reduce tobacco use and exposure, combat crime and violence, and increase community leadership and civic engagement. These innovator cities and counties are:

Tulsa City, Oklahoma
Lead Entity: Tulsa City-County Health Department

San Diego County, California
Lead Entity: County of San Diego Health and Human Service Agency

Kansas City, Missouri
Lead Entity: Kansas City Health Department

New Haven, Connecticut
Lead Entity: New Haven Health Department

Cleveland and Cuyahoga Counties, Ohio
Lead Entity: Cleveland Department of Health

Durham and Cabarrus Counties, North Carolina
Lead Entity: Duke University

Another central goal of the Challenge, which is open to small to mid-sized cities, counties and federally recognized tribes, is to collect successful health improvement strategies that can be tailored and replicated throughout the country. In fact, Challenge participants will be able to share experiences and best practices throughout the process via a learning network.    

“Counties play a pivotal role in improving health in our communities,” said NACo President Sallie Clark. “The Challenge is an opportunity for local governments to build cross-sector partnerships that lead to health innovations and data-driven solutions.  Counties are creating hubs of health and best practices that will help to inform other counties and cities as we work to build a healthier nation.”

Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge proposals are being accepted through May 31, 2016, and participants will be announced in September 2016. Those chosen will receive a $10,000 community seed grant to help with implementation as well as ongoing technical assistance and online learning opportunities. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other. For more information, rules and application materials, visit


The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna (NYSE: AET). Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $465 million in grants and sponsorships. 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 have volunteered 3.8 million hours since 2003. For more information, visit

The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the profession of public health, share the latest research and information, promote best practices and advocate for public health issues and policies grounded in research. We are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Visit us at

The National Association of Counties unites America’s 3,069 county governments. Founded in 1935, NACo brings county officials together to advocate with a collective voice on national policy, exchange ideas and build new leadership skills, pursue transformational county solutions, enrich the public’s understanding of county government and exercise exemplary leadership in public service.  For more information, visit