Advancing Health Equity in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, PA (July 21, 2020) Pittsburgh Food Policy Council (PFPC) and PghFoodTeam today announced it has been selected to receive a grant as part of the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge (#Communities4Health), a program funded by the Aetna Foundation, together with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and the National Association of Counties (NACo), supporting communities that are changing the way they work together across sectors to reduce disparities in chronic disease outcomes.

Pittsburgh Food Policy Council is leading one of the 20 teams chosen to participate in the Challenge. The team will receive $100,000 to take action to change the food access systems in Pittsburgh and engage community residents as leaders in their work. In addition to the funding, PFPC and their partners will participate in one-on-one technical assistance provided by APHA and a supportive peer-learning network led by Healthy Places by Design over the course of the two years.

The PghFoodTeam that will lead the initiative in Pittsburgh includes:

  • Pittsburgh Food Policy Council
  • City of Pittsburgh
  • Pittsburgh Human Relations Commission
  • Allegheny County/Allegheny County Health Department
  • American Heart Association — Greater Pittsburgh
  • Operation Better Block

The team will use food and health equity metrics to identify “healthy food priority areas.” Through the development of comprehensive citywide policy and strategies alongside partners in local government, nonprofit, businesses and others to advance healthy food access and equity in priority neighborhoods of Pittsburgh where individuals are disproportionately impacted by health disparities now compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. “We are excited to accelerate systems change and build on our soon-to-be-released Greater Pittsburgh Food Action Plan. The Challenge helps us bring the food policy council together with an expanded team of key leaders across city and county government capable of moving plans into policy action on food and health equity in the city of bridges,” Dawn Plummer, PFPC’s Executive Director shares.

The PghFoodTeam will co-design this policy with leaders with lived experiences of food and health inequities by formalizing a resident leadership program capable of activating our networks of community advocates. This Challenge seeks to significantly expand and deepen grassroots leadership and participation in policymaking on urgent matters of healthy food access and preventable chronic disease.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving health equity,” APHA Executive Director Georges C. Benjamin, MD explains. “Successful, lasting change comes from cross-sector

partnerships and engaging affected individuals and communities, which is why this challenge is so powerful. Together, communities in the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge will be able to achieve enduring transformations to public health.”

NACo President Mary Ann Borgeson adds, “Counties play an essential role in protecting,promoting and improving health in our communities across the country. The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge recognizes the positive impact of cross-sector partnerships and offers opportunities for counties to develop innovative approaches to meet residents’ health needs.”

The Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge will award a total of $2 million to teams of organizations that will work together to change the food access and health care systems in their communities and engage community residents as leaders in their work.

An expert review panel selected the team following a rigorous review process which looked at a variety of factors including: level of innovation of their proposed approaches, intended impacts on systems and policy change and alignment of diverse partners around common priorities. Learn more about the Pittsburgh project and check out the full list of grantee organizations and their community partners.

The Aetna Foundation, which first launched the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge in partnership with APHA and NACo in 2016, is an independent, charitable and philanthropic affiliate of CVS Health.


Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, Dawn Plummer, 412-406-6061,