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Healthy Communities Fellowship


Healthy Communities Fellowship

Become a Healthy Communities Fellow

Aspen global innovators group | the aetna foundation

A healthy community is characterized not only by the absence of illness but by attributes that promote well-being and enable a high quality of life. In the US and across the globe, people are taking community-building into their own hands, bringing fresh produce to food deserts, demanding better public locations for physical activity, and advocating for clean water, public safety, and quality health services.

The Aspen Global Innovators Group and the Aetna Foundation are committed to amplifying the voices of local leaders spearheading community initiatives addressing inequities through the lens of the social determinants of health. The social determinants of health include social and environmental factors that affect life expectancy outside the doctor's office, like education, unemployment, food insecurity, housing, gender, race, and disability. 

The Healthy Communities Fellowship will select 6 leaders working on these issues in the United States to participate in a curated, one-year fellowship program to develop their voices as experts in the field of the social determinants of health. 

Each fellow will:

Nominations for the Healthy Communities Fellowship is now Open. Nominations will close friday, november 15, 2019.


Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria

Selection Criteria

Individuals that are selected to participate in the Healthy Communities Fellowship will be living and working in the United States and meet the following selection criteria:

  • Focused on improving health outcomes by addressing the social determinants of health, including the environment, education, income inequality, unemployment, food insecurity, housing, social inclusion, health services, gender, race, or disability

  • Has a record of significant positive impact in a local community by addressing the social determinants of health in an innovative way, using an explicit equity lens

  • Fellow, organization, and community will uniquely benefit from activities of the Healthy Communities Fellowship, as articulated in fellowship application

  • Has a passionate, personal connection to the community and the work

  • Demonstrates a willingness to receive collaborative feedback from group of fellows and trainers

  • Committed to work towards breakthroughs that improve health outcomes for everyone, everywhere

Fellows will receive:

  • Storytelling workshop, including writing and public speaking training, in Washington, DC

  • Participation in Aspen Ideas Festival: Health conference, June 24-27, 2020 in Aspen, CO

  • Access to opportunities to share their stories and bring attention to their work

The Healthy Communities Fellowship is unpaid; however, all travel, lodging and workshop costs will be covered by the program. Fellows must commit to participate in 2 in-person events in Washington, DC and Aspen, CO in January and June of 2020. 


Healthy Communities

Healthy Communities

Healthy Communities

The Healthy Communities Fellowship focuses on the social determinants of health, the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age that shape health. Approximately 60 percent of a person’s life expectancy is driven by factors outside of the doctor’s office – our individual behaviors, as well as social and environmental factors. 

Millions of individuals in the US and across the globe struggle with food insecurity and obesity, face long-term exposure to pollution, and lack access to quality health services due to race, gender, and education. These factors need to be considered in an integrated fashion, engaging collaborators across disciplines who have not traditionally viewed their roles through a health lens. Given the powerful influences of racial inequity and segregation on health, a commitment to vanquishing disparities is also essential. How do we tear down social, economic and environmental barriers and build better health for all? 

The Aspen Institute and the Aetna Foundation are committed to amplifying the stories of community leaders who are increasing access to healthy eating habits, safe water, physical activity, and basic health services. The leaders selected to participate in the Healthy Communities Fellowship will be spearheading local initiatives to challenge health inequities in their communities in integrated and effective ways. 


Submit a Nomination

Submit a Nomination

Ready to nominate a fellow?

We can't wait to meet the new 2020 class.

We are now accepting nominations through Friday, November 15, 2019. If you know of a leader who would be a good fit for this opportunity, please fill out the nomination form. Candidate’s shortlisted for the fellowship will receive an email with a link to the application form. Six fellows will be selected and notified by Monday, December 16, 2019. We are selecting candidates whose work is U.S. based. Please contact Tsion Ghedamu at tsion.ghedamu@aspeninst.org with any questions related to the 2020 Healthy Communities Fellowship.


Nominator's Name *
Nominator's Name
Nominator's Phone Number *
Nominator's Phone Number
Can we contact you if we have further questions? *
Candidate's Name *
Candidate's Name
Candidate's Phone Number *
Candidate's Phone Number
Candidate's Gender *
Given the purpose of the fellowship, are they in a position to speak publicly for themselves or their organization? *
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Meet our 2019 Healthy Communities Fellows

Meet our 2019 Healthy Communities Fellows


Fellows Overview



Jerry Blassingame is founder and CEO of Soteria Community Development Corporation in Greenville, SC, where he trains previously incarcerated individuals during their reentry process. After dropping out of college and a decade of dealing and using drugs, Blassingame served three-and-a-half years of a 20-year prison sentence; since his release in 1999, he has successfully navigated this process himself. And now, he provides tools to enable access and opportunities for individuals and their families who have been impacted by the legal system. Blassingame is a certified reentry specialist with a certification from Wheaton College.



Maria Valenzuela is Domestic Program Director of Esperanca, a community advocacy program working for the Hispanic Latino community, to provide access to quality health care and prevention education. She organizes community health programming to empower those who are most at risk, advocating for culturally appropriate, preventative health education of chronic disease, such as obesity, diabetes, and oral health. Her goal is to ensure our communities have the ability to live a healthy lifestyle that leads to a longer life span.



Dr. Hollingsworth is a community health expert and health systems researcher focused on data sharing and engagement to promote better interactions between communities and health systems. In her role as Assistant Vice President of Community and Population Health at Montefiore Health System, she leads the creation and implementation of community and population health strategies, patient education systems, community-based interventions and the development of wellness resources.



Jennie Joseph is the Executive Director of her own non-profit corporation, Commonsense Childbirth Inc., and the founder of the National Perinatal Task Force, a grassroots organization whose mission is the elimination of racial disparities in maternal child health in the USA. A British-trained midwife, Jennie creates access to comprehensive maternity healthcare for all, while fostering safe, respectful, patient-centered care and support for women in areas that she terms ‘materno-toxic zones’. In standing for every woman to have her healthiest possible pregnancy with dignity and respect, she has developed programs, clinics and training for maternity care systems and perinatal practitioners to provide such care, regardless of zip code, race or ethnicity.


Nicolle Gonzales is a certified Nurse-Midwife and founder of the Changing Woman Initiative, a New Mexico-based organization to advance indigenous women’s reproductive rights. She focuses on birth equity for Native American women and has served as the founding board president and vice board president of two new birth centers in New Mexico. She is a writer and an advocate for indigenous birth, midwifery, reproductive justice, and indigenous feminism.



Megan Cunningham, Managing Deputy Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, brings partners together to drive policy change, access data and resources, and improve environments to help all Chicagoans lead healthy lives, especially in communities of greatest need. Through the implementation of Healthy Chicago 2.0, the citywide plan to promote health equity, Megan works across sectors to further affordable and supportive housing, food access, environmental justice, and community spaces that are safe and active. Within CDPH, Megan also supports workforce development and transformation efforts to become a more anti-racist organization.