Aetna Foundation Awards $50,000 Grant to Test Digital and Social Media Pilot Program to Improve Fitn


Aetna Foundation Awards $50,000 Grant to Test Digital and Social Media Pilot Program to Improve Fitness Among Teens in Harlem

-- Funds support the YMCA of Greater New York's Y-MVP initiative --

HARTFORD, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Continuing its efforts to promote health and wellness in low-income communities, the Aetna Foundation has awarded a $50,000 grant to the YMCA of Greater New York to evaluate the effectiveness of its digital and social media fitness and activity tracking system - called Y-MVP - to improve fitness among teenagers in Harlem.

Y-MVP, currently in pilot phase, is an incentive-based "digital badge" system that uses modern game design to make exercise fun. Teens in the program scan their membership cards at digital kiosks and enter information about their daily workouts. These check-ins allow the teens to amass points for fitness apparel, gym gear and digital badges, which are showcased on the kiosks. In addition, the Y-MVP program encourages teens to share their favorite exercise routines with each other. The goal of the program is simple: to help teens try different physical activities and embrace regular, healthy exercise.

The Aetna Foundation grant will help support the testing of the Y-MVP at the Harlem YMCA, which serves more than 2,500 teens each year. As part of the six-month test, the Y is installing the digital kiosks, launching a promotional branch-wide campaign, and evaluating the Y-MVP system with 100 participants. The Y-MVP program is also being tested at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Y, in Brooklyn.

"We are very excited to support the YMCA of Greater New York as they explore a novel, high-tech approach to promoting wellness among children in Harlem," said Gillian Barclay, vice president of the Aetna Foundation and director of national grant making. "Teens love using technology and appreciate positive social feedback. The Y-MVP program will tap into both of these drivers of behavior change to encourage greater physical activity and healthier lifestyles."

New York City's children are more likely than those nationwide to be obese (21 percent vs. 17 percent) and overweight (18 percent vs. 14 percent), with the city's highest obesity rates in low-income minority communities where the Y conducts most of its youth programming.

"The YMCA has the power to test and implement innovative approaches to promote positive health behavior change among its membership," said Lori Rose Benson, vice president, Healthy Lifestyles, for the YMCA of Greater New York. "We are pleased that the Aetna Foundation has joined us in our efforts to empower young people to take charge of their health and celebrate their achievements to be physically fit."

Recently, the Aetna Foundation announced that it was seeking proposals for community-level projects that implement and evaluate mobile apps that can promote healthy choices, particularly in underserved communities.

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 more than $427 million in grants and sponsorships, including more than $14.6 million awarded in 2012. 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 four million hours since 2003. The Aetna Foundation's 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 YMCA of Greater New York

The YMCA of Greater New York is, and always will be, dedicated to building healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families and communities. With a focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, the Y nurtures the potential of every youth and teen, improves New York City's health and well-being and provides opportunities to give back and support neighbors. In scores of neighborhoods across the five boroughs and its camp upstate, the Y makes accessible the support and opportunities that empower more than 400,000 New Yorkers to learn, grow and thrive. Visit

Photos/Multimedia Gallery Available:

Aetna Foundation
Marnie Goodman, 860-273-2314
YMCA of Greater New York
Ellen Murphy, 212-630-9699

KEYWORDS: United States North America Connecticut New York


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