The Cigna Foundation

Established more than 50 years ago, the Cigna Foundation has been taking steps to actively improve the health, well-being, and peace of mind of those we serve. In 2020, we completed the integration of the Cigna and Express Scripts® foundations and refreshed our charitable giving strategy and portfolio, which strengthened and enhanced our commitment to building a healthier future for people and their communities. Combining our charitable giving portfolios allowed us to expand our nonprofit partnerships.

Philanthropy can be a powerful force for driving systemic, sustainable, and positive change. Corporate foundations play a vital role in this – and can truly help solve some of society’s biggest challenges in creative and impactful ways.

In an unprecedented year marked by a global health crisis and economic uncertainty, the Cigna Foundation’s commitment to improve health equity was unwavering, and perhaps more important than ever. In 2020, the Cigna Foundation made more than $38 million in total contributions to nonprofit partners working tirelessly to help people who needed it most – from the underrepresented and underserved, to those struggling with chronic conditions and natural disasters.1

Pursuing Health Equity and Community Health Navigation

The Cigna Foundation continued its long-term focus on advancing health equity in 2020. Pursuing health equity means furthering the elimination of social determinants of health (SDoH)2 as well as working to reduce disparate health outcomes.

In 2021, helping individuals overcome barriers of SDoH will continue to be at the forefront of our Foundation’s strategy. We will also be adding new focus areas, including health and well-being; education and workforce development; community and social issues; military, veterans, and first responder resources; and other critical global and trending health and social issues.

As part of our new Foundation strategy, we sunset our signature World of Difference grant program, but we will be integrating its priority focus areas of health equity and community health navigation into the new Health and Well-Being focus area and grant applications.

Supporting Health Care Workers and Disadvantaged Communities During the COVID-19 Pandemic

In early 2020, the Cigna Foundation joined the worldwide effort to address urgent concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This included partnering with Give2Asia, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Foundation, Feeding America, and other nonprofits on the front lines tackling food insecurity, mental health, and health care worker’s needs. This also included launching the Brave of Heart Fund with $25 million in support from both the Cigna and New York Life Foundations a little over a month after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The fund was established to honor the efforts and ongoing sacrifices of health care workers by offering charitable financial assistance to family members of health care workers who gave their lives fighting COVID-19. Eligible health care workers include doctors, nurses, technicians, orderlies, cafeteria workers, custodians, volunteers, and others on the front lines.

Grants awarded through this program can be used to cover a range of essential goods and services such as funeral costs, medical care, counseling, food, children’s educational expenses, mortgage and rent payments, and other immediate living expenses. These resources are critical for eligible recipients, who are dealing with loss as they move forward and continue managing through the crisis. In addition to the financial support, Cigna provides free emotional and behavioral health services to aid families’ recovery, and New York Life provides a variety of resources to help grieving family members during this exceptional time.

Nothing can replace the loss of a loved one, but it is our sincere hope that the support available through the Brave of Heart Fund can offer some assistance to the families of fallen medical workers. 

Collage of COVID-19 Pandemic health workers

Healthier Kids for Our Future®

2020 marked the second year of Healthier Kids for Our Future (HKFOF), which is a $25 million five-year global initiative committed to improving the health and well-being of children that is aligned with three of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs): No Poverty, Zero Hunger, and Good Health, and Well-Being.

At its core, HKFOF is the bridge connecting local organizations that already make a measurable difference in children’s health outcomes with volunteers, resources, and schools. In phase one, we teamed up with schools and community groups to reduce food insecurity and connect our partners with the resources they need to solve this worldwide challenge. In phase two, we added programming to address the mental health and emotional well-being of children, with emphasis on loneliness, anxiety, depression, and suicide prevention.

The Cigna Foundation is focused on these topics because poor nutrition and food insecurity in childhood can lead to health disparities and poorer health outcomes later in life.3 Additionally, for millions of children, chronic food insecurity, and hunger will lead to poor educational outcomes – including reduced proficiency in math and reading as well as social and behavioral problems.4 And, sadly, the reality is that up to 20 percent of children and adolescents experience mental disorders worldwide.5 Further, more than one-half of American youth (age 6 - 17) diagnosed with a mental health condition do not receive treatment.6

The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on a worsening global mental health crisis that includes struggles with emotional issues, increased loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Additionally, social distancing restrictions forced our education-focused nonprofit partners to adjust their programming to accommodate virtual learning and changes to supplemental meal programs. These partners often work with Title 1 schools with large concentrations of low-income students that receive supplemental funds to assist in meeting students’ educational goals.

Through HKFOF, partner schools work with a nonprofit partner to submit a grant request to the Cigna Foundation to provide tailored, onsite programming and services. We have supported programs such as weekend meal kits, onsite food pantries, community gardens, and community nutrition education events. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, our national food insecurity partner, Feeding Children Everywhere, quickly pivoted to deliver boxes of groceries, at no cost, directly to students’ homes. Additionally, for programs addressing mental health issues, we have supported mindfulness and social-emotional learning training for educators, suicide prevention programs, and youth Mental Health First Aid programs, to name a few. 

Washington University’s Brown School Evaluation Center (Brown School) is partnering with the Cigna Foundation to evaluate the overall program and impact made by individual grantees. We are using the Brown School’s findings to inform our work as we continue to manage and expand the initiative.

Express Scripts® Foundation

During Cigna’s integration with Express Scripts, we have continued to operate the legacy Express Scripts Foundation and the Cigna Foundation separately, recognizing each organization’s stakeholders and commitments.

The Express Scripts Foundation has acted as a catalyst for change since it was established in 2003. Its charitable giving strategy focused on enabling access to health and medical services; supporting education initiatives for underserved youth; advancing pharmacy education; providing services to U.S. military troops and their families; strengthening communities by aiding children and families in need; and providing disaster relief to devastated communities.

In 2020, the Express Scripts Foundation deployed over $1.2 million dollars to organizations improving the health and well-being of individuals in the community, supporting organizations such as Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, Beyond Housing, Rx Outreach, Inc., and Operation Food Search.

For its final year, the Express Scripts Foundation continued support of the dependent scholarship program, awarding $975,0007 in scholarship dollars to eligible dependentsor grandchildren of employees in the United States and Canada. The scholarship program will continue as the Cigna Scholars Program, managed by Scholarship America, and will be funded through the Cigna Foundation.

2020 Grant Recipients – Case Studies

Our 2020 grant recipients are innovators striving to address health disparities, have had clear and measurable impacts for targeted populations, and support the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs). The work of the organizations highlighted in the following case studies typifies the vital work of our grant recipients.
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1Based on Cigna Foundation year-end reporting, in 2020 the Cigna Foundation and the Express Scripts Foundation invested $38.8 million in total contributions. This included $13.8 million in established grant programs and $25 million in support by the Cigna Foundation to the Brave of Heart Fund.

2Social determinants of health (SDoH) are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. They include factors that influence our daily lives, such as economic stability; educational attainment; infrastructure (including housing and transportation); food access; access to health care; and community and social environment (with related factors including loneliness, stress and discrimination). Research shows that these factors play a significant role in health behavior and health status, utilization of care, and health outcomes – even more so than clinical care.

3Gunderson C, Kreider B. Bounding the effects of food insecurity on children’s health outcomes. J Health Econ, 2009; 28(5):971–983.

4Cook, JT. Impacts of food insecurity and hunger on health and development in children: Implications of measurement approach. In paper commissioned for the Workshop on Research Gaps and Opportunities on the Causes and Consequences of Child Hunger. 2013 April, https://sites.nationalacademies.org/cs/groups/dbassesite/documents/webpage/dbasse_084306.pdf.

5 Kessler RC, Angermeyer M, Anthony JC, et al. Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of mental disorders in the World Health Organization’s World Mental Health Survey Initiative. World Psychiatry. 2007; 6: 168–76.

6Whitney, D. US National and State-Level Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders and Disparities of Mental Health Care Use in Children. JAMA Pediatrics, JAMA Network, 1 Apr. 2019, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapediatrics/fullarticle/2724377?guestAccessKey=f689aa19-31f1-481d-878a-6bf83844536a.    

7$975,000 represents only the amount of scholarship awards and does not include additional fees.

8Dependents include natural children, legally adopted children from the date the employee assumes legal responsibility, children for whom the employee assumes legal guardianship, and stepchildren.