Aetna commits $4 million to digital health innovations

The Aetna Foundation has promised to spend $4 million on supporting digital health innovations for underserved communities over the next three years, with $1.2 million going towards the use of digital technology – including mobile health services – among vulnerable and minority populations.

In a statement, the charitable group said the grants would support work being done by 23 organizations in 13 US states – including healthcare bodies, regional hospitals and “grassroots interventions”.

Studies carried out by the Pew Research Center indicate that some 31% of mobile phone owners used their devices to look for health information in 2012, up from 17% in 2010, with Latinos, African Americans and people aged between 18 and 49 more likely to access health information this way.

“Disparities in health care and limited access to preventive services are an unfortunate reality impacting the most vulnerable populations in our country today,” said Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation. “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.”

To ensure the programs are effective in improving health and wellbing among vulnerable and minority communities, the Aetna Foundation requires all organizations it supports to meet “strong evidence-based criteria”.

These include work on sustainable projects that can be scaled up or have the potential for a positive societal impact, and digital health programs that are built on a strong foundation of behavioral or applicable theory and grounded in research.

Since 1980, Aetna (Hartford, CT, USA) and the Aetna Foundation claim to have contributed a total of more than $427 million in grants and sponsorships.