Getting from Health Disparities to a Thriving Community
During Impact 100’s annual Education Event, Jill Miller from bi3 discussed how the major health problems of our time cannot be solved by healthcare or public health alone. Access to healthcare and quality of care is only about 20% of what goes into your health, she noted. The Social Determinants of Health, such as socioeconomic factors, lifestyle choices and your physical environment make up the rest.
Health equity is widely defined as everyone having a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This goal is important, because health disparities impact everyone. First, the cost is steep and it harms our economy and healthcare system. Second, health is a human right and shouldn’t be taken for granted. And third, when we improve healthcare quality and safety it benefits everyone.  
Miller emphasized the need for collective action and outlined bi3’s commitment to forming partnerships throughout the community, particularly in the area of maternal and infant health.
Making Children a Priority
“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass
Consider these facts:
·Despite abundant resources, the U.S. has the highest maternity mortality rate in the developed world. More than half of all maternal deaths in the U.S. could be prevented.
·Black mothers and babies die at two or three times the rate of white moms and babies, both nationally and in Ohio.
Many lifelong problems begin in childhood. Ohio ranks 31st among the states in overall child wellbeing. Systemic disadvantages worsen outcomes and lack of public health workers leads to missed opportunities for prevention.
Dr. Tina Cheng from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center noted that adverse childhood experiences threaten to shorten life expectancy in the 21st century. As children grow, these negative forces include obesity, addictions, mental and emotional health disorders, and exposure to violence.
Cincinnati Children’s has established a Center for Child Health Equity, which is the hospital’s anchor for collaboration and partnership with families, community members, schools, social service agencies, businesses and government. All are working together to increase positive behaviors and reduce negative outcomes.
Dr. Cheng commented, “Improving the health of all kids and families at the earliest stages is essential to building a foundation for lifelong health. Children are 9% of U.S. healthcare spending and 100% of our future.”
As an example of Cincinnati Children’s efforts to approach child health holistically, she noted that the hospital reduced inpatient admissions by 38% by offering legal help to remedy poor living situations.
To put this in perspective, Dr. Cheng quoted her colleague Robert Kahn, MD, MPH, saying, “If this were a pill that demonstrated a 38% reduction across so many kids in terms of hospitalization, every pharmaceutical company in the country would be going after it, and every healthcare payer would be figuring out how to cover it.”
Change for Good
During table discussions, attendees had a chance to do their own brainstorming. They made suggestions for further progress:
·Educate those who are hands-on with patients. Build health equity training into medical school and healthcare provider education.
·Have more people attend the Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Groundwater program.
·Start with listening. People with money and power may believe they have the answers but first they need to listen to community members.
·Recruit and cultivate relatable mentors for people of similar color and background.
·Invest in safe and healthy gathering places, and recruit and train neighborhood leaders.
·Diversify membership of nonprofit organizations.
·Participate in implicit bias training.
·Apply an equity lens to grant making.
·Increase bilingual services.
·Train more people of color to be healthcare providers.
·Focus on maternal and early childhood health and wellbeing.
“Throughout the evening, there was a spirit of collaboration and cooperation as people came together to listen, learn and discuss,” said Sherry Holcomb, Impact 100 board member and event chair. “I think everyone who attended gained new insights about health inequity and left with greater awareness about what each of us can do to improve the health of our community. Thanks to all who participated.”