CINCINNATI, Aug. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Center for Closing the Health Gap is a non-profit organization founded in 2004 to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities across Greater Cincinnati. Funded primarily through sponsorship contributions from the region's largest hospitals and health care organizations, the Health Gap also receives funds from national grants and tax dollars from the City of Cincinnati. The City recently released findings from an audit of the Health Gap's stewardship of funds and found the organization to be in compliance with all processes over the past five years.
"Over the past 13 years, the Health Gap has dealt with the most difficult health issues affecting our most vulnerable populations and specifically the black community," said Dwight Tillery, founder and CEO of the Center for Closing the Health Gap. "The issue of health disparities is among the most challenging we face as a society – not just for Cincinnati but for the entire nation. Instead of simple band-aids that address only the symptoms, we're doing the hard work of addressing the root causes."
Racial and ethnic disparities are caused by a variety of factors including social and environmental conditions, access to care and the structure of the health care system. Through advocacy, education and community outreach, Tillery and his Health Gap team work collaboratively with more than 100 different organizations including vulnerable neighborhoods, universities, hospitals, government, associations and businesses to address fundamental social determinants and make critical changes. Initiatives focus on disease prevention, promoting healthier eating and enhancing quality of life to promote a culture of health and make Cincinnati's neighborhoods and residents stronger.
"Since our launch, Cincinnati's major hospitals have funded the Health Gap and served on our board," said Mark Vander Laan, chair of the board of directors for the Health Gap. "They've contributed almost $18 million because they believe in our work, and they know firsthand the depth of our healthcare problem. Similarly, the City of Cincinnati continues to understand the value of our work and invest in it year after year. We were gratified, but not surprised, by the positive results of the City's compliance audit, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with Cincinnati."
In response to the audit, the Board of Directors of the Health Gap issued a joint statement to redouble its support of the Health Gap's work: "We take seriously the oversight of this excellent organization and its devotion to empowering individuals and communities to unleash their own potential to change health outcomes for themselves and their neighbors. The Health Gap has done, and will continue to do, significant work in this community to address the serious issue of health disparities."
Cincinnati's City Manager has placed the Health Gap in the City's 2018-19 budget at a level of $750,000. Like with previous taxpayer dollars, that investment will yield significant return in the improved health and well-being of Cincinnati's urban residents through programs such as:
The Health Gap's Annual Health Expo – The Expo has reached nearly 100,000 individuals since 2004. Nearly 30,000 free health screenings have been conducted – 38% of which were for individuals who had not received a health check in past three years. Said Tillery: "The Health Expo is saving lives. We have stacks of letters and emails from people who tell us that if it weren't for the free screenings, they would have never found out about their diabetes or high blood pressure. Lives are being changed and saved because the Expo is providing access residents couldn't have received anywhere else in our community."
The Health Gap's Do Right! Campaign – We work with Mt. Auburn residents to help them change their lifestyles with a focus on physical activity and healthier eating. Nearly 20,000 participants have been served since 2008.
Food Deserts – The Health Gap works to address food deserts in Cincinnati's most impacted neighborhoods. Added Tillery: "These areas where healthy, affordable food is difficult to obtain is an epidemic with no easy solutions. Take away what the Health Gap is doing through the Cincinnati Fresh Food Retail Financing Fund and the City of Cincinnati Food Access Task Force and there would be nothing for the thousands of residents in our urban core who struggle daily."
Do Right! Babies Infant Mortality Initiative and Community Health University – These programs equip individuals with tools to navigate and utilize the health care system efficiently.
"I'm proud of the work we do every day, proud of the community leaders who continue to support and fund us, proud of the residents who use our programs to take back control of their health," added Tillery. "There is no secret recipe to cure the root causes of ethnic health disparities and a system that's been broken for decades. But the Health Gap is using every tool at our disposal. The impact is real and it's all around us. And we'll continue to work hard to make a difference no matter the obstacles."
About the Health Gap
The Center for Closing the Health Gap promotes awareness about health disparities through education, training, advocacy and outreach activities for organizations and individuals in Greater Cincinnati. The Center maximizes collaborative opportunities by working with organizations, associations, health institutions and other stakeholders to promote health and disease prevention. The Center's goal is to improve the health status of the African American, Latino and Appalachian populations. For more information, visit ClosingTheHealthGap.org.