Aetna Foundation to Give $4 Million in Grants

Aetna FoundationGrants to Support Digital Health Innovations for Underserved Communities

The Aetna Foundation announced more than $1.2 million in grants to support the use of digital health technology, including mobile health or mHealth, among vulnerable and minority populations. The grants are part of a larger $4 million, three-year digital health commitment from the Aetna Foundation for the implementation and evaluation of technology innovations to help address public health concerns.

According to recent research from the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of cell phone owners used their phones to look for health information in 2012, up from 17 percent two years earlier. Latinos, African Americans and people between the ages of 18-49 are more likely than other groups to access health information on their mobile devices. Additional Pew Research also reveals that nearly a quarter of low-income adults in the U.S. own smartphones and regularly access the Internet on a mobile device.

“Disparities in health care and limited access to preventive services are an unfortunate reality impacting the most vulnerable populations in our country today. However, we believe that digital health technology can serve as a powerful equalizer for improving health education and access to care among minority and low-income communities by reaching people where they are spending time – at school, at church, in their neighborhoods and on-the-go with real-time solutions that easily fit into their daily lives,” said Garth Graham, M.D., M.P.H., president of the Aetna Foundation. “By supporting technology that can empower individuals with the convenience and control to meet their personal health and wellness goals, the Aetna Foundation is working to build healthier communities, a healthier nation and a healthier world.”

The grants announced today will go to a diverse group of 23 organizations across 13 states, including health care organizations, regional hospitals and grassroots interventions all focused on easy-to-use ways to leverage existing technology to impact health.

“Through the support of the Aetna Foundation’s Digital Health Initiative, we will have the ability to empower people to take charge of their health,” said Silas Buchanan, CEO, Institute for eHealth Equity (IEHE). “Our Text4Wellness program will work with faith-based organizations in three vulnerable communities to offer health and wellness messaging that church leadership can use to connect with their congregations and share healthier lifestyle tips. This grassroots approach uses existing technology to reach people when they are most receptive to change within their communities to help make a positive health impact.”

To ensure that Aetna Foundation-funded digital health programs are effective in improving the overall health and well-being of vulnerable and minority communities, all organizations the Foundation supports must meet strong evidence-based criteria. These criteria include sustainable projects that can demonstrate scalability; projects that have the potential for positive societal impact; digital health programs that leverage available evidence such as population health data or health care data; and digital health support built on a strong foundation of behavioral or applicable theory and grounded in research.

As part of this overall commitment to an evidence-based approach to digital health innovations, the Foundation is supporting a call for papers in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Public Health. To be considered for inclusion in this supplement, papers must be submitted by March 1, 2014, using the online submission system.

By leveraging the power of digital health technology, the Aetna Foundation is working to further its overall goal to improve health in vulnerable and minority communities. To learn more about the Aetna Foundation’s Digital Health Initiative and tangible ways your organization can benefit from their digital health innovations commitment, visit them online. or join the digital health conversation on Twitter with #digitalhealth.

About the Aetna Foundation

The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc. (NYSE: AET) Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed more than $427 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 four million hours since 2003. For more information, visit