Public Health Contest Highlights Value of Community, Collaboration

The Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, supported by a number of associations and nonprofits, is about health, sure. But the $1.5 million competition has a lot to do with how local communities partner with organizations across sectors.

A major public-health organization and a local government group are teaming up with Aetna to pursue a lofty goal: a rise in healthy communities.

The American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo) are working with Aetna’s independent charitable foundation on the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a competition that encourages cities and towns around the country to get healthier. To prompt communities to take part, the Aetna Foundation is putting money on the line—$1.5 million in total prizes, to be exact, split between two tiers of cities. The nonprofit CEOs for Cities will administer the contest.

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

According to the contest website, healthy cities and counties have these characteristics:

  • They promote healthy behaviors.
  • They focus on community safety.
  • They provide abundant space where people can work, live, and play.
  • They enable people to have enjoyable social experiences and ample work.
  • They are clear of pollutants and provide communities with access to healthy food and clean water.

But the initiative goes beyond encouraging good health and overall well-being: Entrants will be judged based on their ability to enter into cross-sector partnerships. Reflecting that emphasis, the judges come from an array of organizations, including AARP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Urban Land Institute.

“The big health threats we face today can’t be solved by one sector alone,” APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD, said in the news release. “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 affordable housing, community violence, or safe drinking water, multisector partnerships coupled with community-driven leadership have the potential to transform the way we think about good health and well-being.”

Communities interested in signing up can learn how to submit an RFP at the Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge website and can check out the infographic below to learn more:



Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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