The Aetna Foundation: Working to Keep Ohio Healthy

By Cristin Kumar


This month, 3rd Rail Politics is bringing you examples of goodwill taking place across the Buckeye state. In sharing stories about Giving Tuesday, and Secretary of State Husted’s family tradition of volunteer work link to Husted article, we hope that you, too, can find the good that surrounds you and share in the spirit of giving this Holiday Season.


Amidst an antitrust trial in which the U.S. Department of Justice is attempting to block health insurance titan Aetna, Inc.’s, merger with Humana, Inc.,  (  the work of Aetna’s charitable arm – the Aetna Foundation  deserves some note in this time of criticism of corporate profits. Through the Aetna Foundation, Aetna is able to invest in cities and communities across the country. The Aetna Foundation’s website describes its purpose below:


The Aetna Foundation is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna...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. 


The Foundation’s grant programs include: the “Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge,” “Eat Smart, Live Well,” “The Health Equity Leadership & Exchange Network (HELEN),” and “Cultivating Healthy Communities,” among others.


In addition to its organized drives, Aetna, the Aetna Foundation, and Aetna’s employees have donated time and money to Ohio causes. According to an Aetna spokesperson:

  • The Aetna Foundation has given more than $500,000 in grants in Ohio since 2014.
  • Aetna has also given more than $200,000 to Ohio-based nonprofits and their events since 2013.
  • Aetna employees have volunteered more than 78,000 hours in Ohio since 2013.


As part of the Cultivating Healthy Communities program, the Foundation has made more than $2 million in grants available to three Ohio projects: Live Healthy Appalachia (for a program of cooking classes that teach rural residents how to choose and prepare more whole foods), United Way of Central Ohio (for the expansion of a corner store network to help owners stock, market and sell healthy foods), and The Ohio State University Foundation (for career training and nutrition education for students interested in food sustainability careers).


Ohio is also home to two members of the HealthyCommunity50 - comprised of 50 organizations from the Healthiest Cities & Counties challenge - Health Works Franklin County and Breathe Free CLE. The HealthyCommunity50 finalists were chosen from a pool of hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other entities. BreatheFreeCLE originated with the Breathe Free committee of the local Health Department’s “Healthy Cleveland,” out of which grew “Tobacco21.” Tobacco21 is an educational movement designed to inform the public on the health risks of smoking and preventing youth from trying tobacco in the first place.


Cleveland also became one of six “Innovator Cities” for the Tobacco21 strategy, which pairs with last year’s Cleveland law of the same name that changed the local age for obtaining tobacco from 18 to 21. According to the Foundation’s press release regarding the six winners, Cleveland’s rate of current smokers is higher than the national average. Each Innovator City won $10,000 in start-up funds for its respective project, in addition to “$1.5 million in prizes to communities that show measurable improvements in health indicators and social determinants of health.”


All of these initiatives work to achieve the same goal; healthier Ohioans who are less susceptible to disease and need of hospitalization. These charitable goals are another reason why charities are considered not for profit entities according to Federal Tax Statute, as they work towards the public good and supplant the need for tax dollars to achieve similar public purposes.


The Aetna Foundation’s presence in Ohio has been invaluable in supporting the incredible work these programs are already doing across the state. Thanks to the Foundation, and of course to the groups working so hard on the ground, like Health Works and Live Healthy Appalachia, we may just be able to avoid that pesky New Year’s resolution to lose those holiday pounds and keep them off altogether. Thanks for keeping us healthy!