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The Cigna Foundation

8 February 2018

The Cigna Foundation was established 56 years ago, in 1962. Mary Tullis Engvall, the new Executive Director, explains what they do and how they partner with non-profit organisations to improve the health and wellbeing of people in need.

What’s the Cigna Foundation's mission?

The Cigna Foundation’s mission is tied to Cigna’s mission. At Cigna we believe that investing in the health of our communities really connects with the company’s overall success. The Cigna Foundation carries out the corporate philanthropy goals of bringing Cigna’s mission to life, both for individuals and for the different communities where we do business around the globe.

We focus on charitable grants to non-profit organisations who are working to enhance the health of individuals and the overall wellbeing of their communities.

What's your role?

My role is to lead Cigna’s community impact, corporate responsibility and our philanthropic giving through the Cigna Foundation.

How is the Cigna Foundation helping communities within and outside the USA?

We provide philanthropic grants to NGOs and we use our strong partnerships and our resources to effectively tackle some of the most critical health issues that society faces today. We not only provide financial resources, but also our expertise as a health services company.

One of our grantees leads a peer-led programme that helps pre-diabetic teens in the East Harlem neighbourhood of New York City. We also fund a number of community health workers in locations around the U.S. These community health workers funded by Cigna Foundation grants work to help people in underserved communities navigate the health care system. These are people who may not have health insurance or a primary care physician. The emergency room is often their only access to health care.

The Cigna Foundation also gives grants to projects outside the USA. Some examples are CORO India, Carney’s Community in the UK and Jacaranda Health in Kenya.

We often hear about the World of Difference grants, can you tell us a bit about them?

Part of the Cigna Foundation’s philanthropic strategy is to focus on the topic of health equity and to provide larger impact-based, multi-year grants that could move the needle on health disparities. This is what the World of Difference grants do.

While these grants provide financial funding, we go above and beyond just cheque writing. Our grant evaluation manager works very closely with our World of Difference grantees. She meets with them on a quarterly basis to help them stay on track with their goals and to see where they might need help. We can bring in many different parts of the organisation such as medical directors, IT assistants, or even people from our marketing team. We really partner with them to help them be successful.

For example, Bright Star received a grant to help address trauma among victims of violence in the Bronzeville and neighbouring sections of Chicago. Through the grant, the Cigna Foundation joined various organisations that developed The Urban Resilience Network (TURN) Model – an initiative designed to empower the community to lead healthy, safe, and self-sufficient lives through parenting, workforce development, advocacy, mentoring and counselling.

What's the link between the Cigna Foundation and Cigna NGO Health Benefits?

The health of an organisation begins with the health of its workforce. People typically spend one-third or more of their time at work, so the workplace can serve as a strong support system for employees’ health and wellbeing needs. We collaborated with Cigna NGO Health Benefits to sponsor workplace wellness events in London, Shanghai, Mumbai, Dubai and Singapore.

While working with Cigna NGO Health Benefits, we encountered Duty of Care; a framework that defines the relationship between employers and their staff members. The next step in the evolution of our existing thought leadership position in workplace wellbeing will be exploring Duty of Care.

Are there any key initiatives for this year you can share with us?

We’re currently developing a schedule of events and publications around Duty of Care throughout the year. We’ll also continue to build partnerships with NGOs that are focussed on improving health by eliminating health disparities and utilising community health workers. We want to connect with a wide variety of Cigna stakeholders to improve health in the communities where we have a presence. Our goal is to make community engagement go viral across the business.

And finally, as the only US-based health insurance company to be a signatory of the UN Global Compact, we’ll work very closely with the UN to align our activities around their 17 Sustainable Development Goals.