Louisville recognized in ‘Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge’

September 22, 2016

One of hundreds of entries selected to compete for up to $500,000 in prizes


Louisville has been selected as one of 50 communities to receive a $10,000 community seed award in a “Healthiest Cities and Counties Challenge” that includes potential funding to support a program to boost employment and outdoor programming for urban youth. 

The Challenge, a partnership between the Aetna Foundation, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of Counties, launched in April during National Public Health Week. The Challenge will award $1.5 million in prizes to small and mid-sized cities, counties and federally recognized tribes that are able to show measurable change over the course of several years working with cross-sector partnerships to implement health innovations and data-driven solutions. Hundreds of city governments, local municipalities, health departments, educational institutions and other public/private entities applied to be a part of the Challenge. 

Louisville was among the HealthyCommunity50 chosen based on plans to improve the health of their communities in at least one of five domains: Healthy behaviors, community safety, built environment, social/economic factors and environmental exposures.

Louisville Metro Parks and Recreation, in partnership with the Metro Louisville Department of Public Health and Wellness, Outdoor Afro, Kentucky and the Louisville Nature Center, will be administering the grant. The seed money offered through the challenge will expand the in-school and out-of-school time program components of the Louisville Engaging Children Outdoors (ECHO) initiative and build neighborhood capacity for improving access to nature and outdoor recreation through a train-the -trainer program.

The project comes at a critical time for Louisville, according to Bennett Knox, Program Administrator for Metro Parks and Recreation’s Natural Areas Division. Knox said it is his hope the award will help identify youth who live in Louisville's urban neighborhoods and career pathways in fields connected to nature.

"We're hoping to find kids who have an aptitude for nature and are interested in being future role models as we grow our outdoor programming," Knox said.

The award also supports the goals of the West Louisville Outdoor Recreation Initiative (WLORI) envisions developing, programming, education infrastructure in west Louisville that would help support outdoor programs, including cleaning up the pond in Chickasaw Park for safe fishing, providing access to the Ohio River for boating and canoeing, and areas for nature play and exploration.

“At the Aetna Foundation, we’re seeking to reward innovation for communities implementing new ways to improve health outcomes,” said Dr. Garth Graham, president of the Aetna Foundation. “We want the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge to serve as a catalyst for collaboration in local communities around the country working to move the needle in combating health disparities.”


All selected HealthyCommunity50 members will be visited by an expert judge panel to answer questions, understand the community’s approach to the project first-hand and speak with the members of the cross-sector team and key stakeholders. At the conclusion of the Challenge, the programs most able to show measurable change will be eligible for prize awards from $25,000 - $500,000. Participants will be judged on their own progress and will not be competing against each other. For more information, visit www.healthiestcities.org.


The Natural Areas Division, based at Jefferson Memorial Forest, is entrusted with providing stewardship, nature-based educational programming, and outdoor recreation within nearly 7,000 acres of forest, meadow, and riparian habitat across Louisville Metro. It administers the Louisville is Engaging Children in Nature initiative, which is focused on improving access to the outdoors for all Louisvillians through programming focused on environmental education, outdoor recreation and environmental stewardship.