Aetna Foundation: Our history | CVS Health
An Aetna employee at the company’s Hartford, Connecticut headquarters, smiles and leads an unknown company meeting.

Aetna Foundation: Our history

1930s to 1960s

1931 – Aetna begins involvement in annual employee United Way/Combined Health Charities Appeal Campaign

1944 – In the aftermath of a tragic circus fire in Hartford, Connecticut, Aetna volunteers to provide extra staffing to hospitals and temporary first-aid shelters. The company opens its 50-bed infirmary to receive casualties.

1958 – Aetna creates a formal Statement of Principles.

1959 – Aetna President Henry S. Beers makes corporate responsibility and employee volunteerism business objectives.

1967 – Aetna participates in the life insurance industry's first Billion Dollar Fund, with the purpose of financing urban investments.


1971 – Aetna creates a Corporate Social Responsibility department; Edwin B. Knauft is appointed its Vice President.
Aetna participates in the life insurance industry's second Billion Dollar Fund.

1972 – Aetna creates the Aetna Foundation.

1973 – Aetna launches Dollars for Doers to encourage civic participation by employees.

1975 – The Hartford Civic Center opens, built by a public-private partnership consisting of Aetna and the City of Hartford, Connecticut. It was the first of its kind in the nation.

1976 – Aetna introduces a residential loan program in its Asylum Hill neighborhood in Hartford, Connecticut.

1978 – Aetna Foundation prioritizes urban problems, minority youth unemployment, empowerment and health education.

Aetna Foundation begins the FOCUS program to address the needs of communities around Aetna's field offices.

Aetna Foundation creates the Neighborhood Investment Program, which becomes a nationally recognized endeavor.


1981 – Aetna volunteers form the Corporate Lawyers Legal Aid to the Elderly program.

1984 – Aetna’s Saturday Academy begins, providing academic enrichment for students in Hartford, Connecticut’s public middle schools.

1987 – Aetna Foundation initiates international grants program in Asia and South America.

1988 – Aetna Foundation adds AIDS to its priority list; grants focus on community-based services.


1991 – Aetna Foundation prioritizes immunization and primary health care for disadvantaged children, and higher education for minority students.

1997 – Aetna Foundation adopts women's cardiovascular disease prevention as the focus of health philanthropy and enters into a partnership with the American Heart Association to develop the Women's Awareness Campaign.

Aetna holds its first Conversation on Race, Ethnicity and Culture program.

The Quality Care Research Fund is established with a $15 million, five-year commitment to support innovative and applied research toward improving health outcomes for all Americans.

1999 – Aetna Foundation and Aetna help found the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, pledging $5 million.


2001 – Aetna Foundation launches the Regional Grants Program, focused on community grants, emerging markets, and volunteerism.

2004 –Aetna Foundation introduces the Quality of Care Grants Program to address racial and ethnic disparities in health and end-of-life care.

2008 – The Local Market Community Building Program awards over $8 million in grants and sponsorships to 28 communities across the U.S.

2010s to present

2011 – Aetna Foundation leads a coalition to fund and launch a study of health care quality in the state of Connecticut

2014 – Aetna Foundation launches a $4.5-million challenge to researchers to create digital health approaches that improve chronic health outcomes in underserved communities.

2016 – Aetna Foundation launches Cultivating Healthy Communities, a community-based grant program focused on resident-led approaches to improving social determinants of health.

Aetna Foundation launches Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge, a $1.5-million prize competition in which small and mid-sized U.S. cities and counties as well as federally recognized tribes competed to develop practical, evidence-based strategies to improve measurable health outcomes and promote health and wellness, equity and social interaction.

2020 – Second cohort of Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge awarded; program is revised from competition to grant program, with an emphasis on technical support and peer learning for grantees.