News Releases

Aetna And The Foundation Fund Dancing For Health Initiatives In New York, Chicago, San Francisco And Hartford

Grants will help fight obesity and manage chronic disease to help at-risk children and adults become healthier

HARTFORD, Conn., March 03, 2011 — As part of its efforts to reduce obesity rates, particularly among minority populations that face the highest risk, Aetna (NYSE: AET) and  the Aetna Foundation today announced grants totaling $63,000 to four organizations that offer dance-oriented health and fitness programs for children and families who live in underserved areas.  Receiving support are the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York, The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, Dance Out Diabetes in San Francisco and the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford.

“Investing in innovative programs in our communities is an important part of our strategy to reverse obesity rates, especially among those most vulnerable,” said Anne C. Beal, M.D., M.P.H., president of the Aetna Foundation.   She noted that when compared with white people, African Americans have a 51 percent higher prevalence of obesity and Hispanics have a 21 percent higher prevalence of obesity.

“Dance can be a powerful motivator for people of all fitness levels to express their physicality.   Programs that combine increased movement with nutritional guidance can help young people and their families adopt healthy habits for a lifetime. Our goal is to stem today’s obesity epidemic and its attendant medical risks of diabetes, heart disease and other serious illnesses,” Beal said.

Re-enforcing Aetna’s recognition of dance’s therapeutic effects, the company’s 2011 Latino Calendar features individuals who are committed to improving their own health and the wellness of their communities through dance.

In New York
This month, the Dance Theatre of Harlem launched the Aetna Foundation Healthy Dancers, Healthy Families Initiative, a multi-year effort funded with a $25,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to provide 500 local children and their families with a year-round series of workshops on obesity, healthy eating, and dance exercise at its school.   New workshops for children and their parents include Ballet Fit, Adult Ballet, Liturgical Dance and a “Whole Dancer” curriculum. According to the New York City Department of Public Health, 60 percent of adults and 40 percent of children living in Greater Harlem are overweight or obese, putting them at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses. 

In Chicago
The Aetna Foundation’s $10,000 grant to The Joffrey Ballet helps fund the renowned dance company’s Middle School Dance Clubs program in Chicago Public Schools.  Serving about 400 primarily African-American and Hispanic students in grades 5 – 8, the Joffrey’s in-school program offers fitness through dance, allowing students to have fun while engaging in high-level physical activities twice a week and learning healthy eating habits. Underscoring the role that dance can play in motivating and educating young people, the program fosters self-expression, artistic creativity, discipline, and a sense of accomplishment as the students come together for a final performance at the end of the school year during a week-long dance finale. 

In San Francisco
The Dance Out Diabetes First Steps program addresses the need for a safe, diabetes-friendly environment for those with -- or at risk for -- diabetes and least likely to have access to quality health care.  The program, supported by a $13,000 grant from Aetna, offers a wide variety of dance instruction and free-style dance for all ages as a fun, positive way to introduce or increase physical activity while providing diabetes and nutrition education from certified diabetes educators and registered dietitians. The program measures participants’ blood pressure, weight, glucose and A1C values and offers support onsite, telephonically and through its website.  In addition, families and support persons are encouraged to attend to reduce the feeling of isolation and promote better health for the family as a whole.

In Hartford
With a $15,000 grant, Aetna is supporting the Charter Oak Cultural Center’s program Stretching for Life, a free after-school, weekend and summer dance class for more than 400 city children from minority populations, ages 4 through 18. Students not only learn the basics of dance, but also learn about the importance of regular physical activity, are exposed to the music and movement of different cultures and participate in the creation of original choreography.  In Hartford, 50 percent of 11-year-old children are estimated to be obese, extremely obese or at risk for obesity.

Fighting obesity is one of the Aetna Foundation’s three program areas, along with promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care and promoting more integrated and coordinated patient care.  In 2010, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation contributed more than $2.3 million in support of research and programs to reduce obesity rates.  
About the Aetna Foundation
The Aetna Foundation, Inc. is the independent charitable and philanthropic arm of Aetna Inc.  Since 1980, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have contributed $394 million in grants and sponsorships, including $15.6 million in 2010.  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 more than 2.3 million hours since 2003.  Our current giving is focused on addressing the rising rate of adult and childhood obesity in the U.S.; promoting racial and ethnic equity in health and health care; and advancing integrated health care. For more information, visit

About Aetna
Aetna is one of the nation’s leading diversified health care benefits companies, serving approximately 35.3 million people with information and resources to help them make better informed decisions about their health care. Aetna offers a broad range of traditional, voluntary and consumer-directed health insurance products and related services, including medical, pharmacy, dental, behavioral health, group life and disability plans, and medical management capabilities and health care management services for Medicaid plans. Our customers include employer groups, individuals, college students, part-time and hourly workers, health plans, governmental units, government-sponsored plans, labor groups and expatriates. For more information, see To learn more about Aetna's innovative online tools, visit