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Healthy Communities Initiative

Barb Clint, Director of Community Health and Advocacy
(216) 263-6293
bclint@clevelandymca.org

health screeningThe Healthy Communities Initiative brings health services to inner-city neighborhoods, reaching residents who might otherwise only seek health care at a hospital emergency room.

The program promotes a healthier community, with a special emphasis on African-American and Latino residents and inner-city and first ring suburban neighbors who are at the highest risk for lifestyle-related chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

In Cuyahoga County, where you live can affect how long you live by as many as 24.5 years, according to a study conducted by Dr. Anthony Iton for the Cuyahoga County Board of Health. Dr. Iton serves as Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, following 12 years of service as the Public Health Director for Alameda County, California. His primary interest is the health of disadvantaged populations and the contributions of race, class, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status.

For eample, a resident in Lyndhurst can expect to live to 88.5 years of age while a resident of the Hough neighborhood in Cleveland located just seven miles away has a life expectancy of just 64 years. The mortality rate from heart disease for white residents in Cuyahoga County is 289 persons per 100,000 residents, while the rate among African-American residents stands at 331 per 100,000. Likewise, stroke rate is 57 per 100,000 for white Cuyahoga County residents, and 66 per 100,000 among African- American residents.

Many forces combine to produce such extreme health disparity outcomes.

For example, most of us have the leisure of not having to think about where we can find high quality fresh produce close to home, but for many Cleveland and first ring suburban residents, their neighborhoods may lack full-service grocery stores. For those lucky enough to live in a community where a full-service grocery store exists, access to healthy food is not assured as 25% of Cuyahoga County residents do not own cars.

Coupled with recent cut backs in local Community Circulator bus routes, getting to a grocery store is a hardship for many persons. Likewise, all communities are not equally accommodating of healthy, active lifestyles. Many neighborhoods and communities are bisected by wide streets carrying high traffic volumes. Excessive vehicular speeds compound problems for pedestrians, runners and bicyclists.

As a result, living the healthy lifestyle which has been shown to reduce the risk for overweight and obesity and chronic diseases associated with overweight and obesity becomes a challenge in communities such as these.

Clevelanders in Motion (CIM) is the primary program initiative under the Y’s Healthy Communities banner, works on a daily basis with grassroots and institutional partners to advance opportunities for increased access to healthy and affordable foods and safe and attractive roads and sidewalks on which to walk, run or bicycle.