CVS Health launches $100 million building healthier communities initiative

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CVS Health launches $100 million building healthier communities initiative

By Sandra Levy - 01/14/2019
With its acquisition of Aetna complete, CVS Health is making a big push for community health.

The company on Wednesday announced a $100 million commitment to making community health and wellness a focus of its mission for a better world.

The new Building Healthier Communities initiative will be funded over five years through the combined company, as well as the CVS Health Foundation and Aetna Foundation. CVS Health said it will build on the two companies' past community investments and use their scale, resources and combined capabilities to push a strategy that it said would have a measurable impact on the health of communities across the United States.

"We believe the path to better health and a better world can be reached by creating a whole new healthcare model that's more local, affordable and easier to use," said Larry Merlo, CVS Health president and CEO, at a speech given Monday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. "And by strengthening our local support and community engagement, we can further improve the health of our communities,"

Through the Building Healthier Communities effort, CVS Health will invest $20 million annually across three funding categories to support a range of initiatives and nonprofit organizations, including improving local access to affordable quality care.

CVS Health also said it would be expanding its Project Health campaign to target more underserved and underinsured communities beginning in 2019, with an aim of reaching more at-risk populations with free health and wellness screenings. Project Health offers a no cost comprehensive health assessment, including blood pressure, body mass index, glucose and total cholesterol screenings. Since the effort began in 2006, Project Health has delivered more than $127 million in free healthcare services to nearly 1.7 million Americans, CVS health said.

The company also said it would continue to make strategic investments that enable access to such local resources as Meals on Wheels, free clinics and community health centers. "Through grant funding in 2019 to more than 100 free clinics and community health centers in the communities we serve, CVS Health can help address these social and health disparities," the company said.

The company said it will make significant investments in support of innovative approaches to managing such chronic disease as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

Additionally, CVS Health will continue to help tackle the nation's opioid crisis as part of its new commitment. Funding will be directed to organizations that are innovating in the area of addiction treatment.

The Building Healthier Communities strategy also includes tobacco use prevention education efforts. The company's "Be The First" program, which aims to create the first tobacco-free generation, will continue to fund universities, women's colleges, community colleges and historically black colleges and universities to go tobacco-free. Efforts also include e-cigarette education, tobacco control and healthy behavior programming through national and local partnerships, including the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, CATCH Global Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Truth Initiative.

Through the Aetna Foundation and its collaboration with U.S. News & World Report, CVS Health said it would support the Healthiest Communities rankings, a report that evaluates the health of nearly 3,000 communities in 10 categories, including education, population health, infrastructure and economy. The rankings, first published in 2018, also identify the best approaches for improving public health that can be shared and implemented across the country.

In addition, CVS Health and Aetna employees have pledged a minimum of $10 million worth of volunteer hours each year of the commitment. CVS Health and Aetna support these efforts through a volunteer platform where colleagues can volunteer regularly and get involved with a range of local partner organizations to help address unmet health and social needs.

"Health starts at the community level. By combining the capabilities and philanthropic resources of CVS Health and Aetna, we can engage and empower local communities to address their unique healthcare needs and make a real difference," Merlo said. "Ultimately, we're aspiring to deliver better health care, which in turn creates better communities and a better world."

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