AP NEWS

Reducing health disparities in Greater Cleveland is United Way’s campaign focus: Toby Cosgrove (Opinion)

September 23, 2018

Reducing health disparities in Greater Cleveland is United Way’s campaign focus: Toby Cosgrove (Opinion)

CLEVELAND -- There is good news about our nation’s health. Death rates from cardiovascular disease and cancer are down. Fewer people are dying of HIV or blood infections. Older Americans are enjoying longer, more active lives.

America’s health care providers are doing more good for more people than ever before.

But benefits of our overall better health are not evenly distributed. Greater Cleveland in particular suffers from dramatic disparities in health outcomes.

Concern for our region’s health is one of the reasons I agreed to serve as the chair of the 2018-19 United Way of Greater Cleveland Campaign. This year’s campaign is focused on health and the social factors that affect our region’s negative health outcomes.

Greater Cleveland has shockingly high rates of infant mortality and drug overdose. At the same time, we have an increasing burden of chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers.

This year’s United Way of Greater Cleveland Campaign is aggressively focused on the social issues surrounding these crises, and their No. 1 driver: poverty.

Poverty is an impediment to better lifestyle choices. Financial stress makes it difficult to prioritize health. Poverty doesn’t affect only one segment of society. It affects our entire community. Chronic disease care is a primary driver of higher health care costs, most of which are paid by taxpayers.

To reduce the cost of health care, we have to create the conditions for better life choices. Each of us is only going to be as safe and healthy as we are all safe and healthy.

And this is where United Way of Greater Cleveland excels. They support the agencies that mitigate the effects of poverty. They help stabilize lives and families, providing a platform for healthier life choices.

The record speaks for itself. Last year, United Way of Greater Cleveland:

* Put $10.1 million into Northeast Ohio’s health and human services sector to address education, financial stability, health and basic needs.

* Gave $3.1 million to poverty relief organizations like Catholic Charities Diocese of Cleveland, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and the United Black Fund of Greater Cleveland.

* Delivered $18 million to approved causes and programs designated by individual donors, like you.

With new leadership and new ideas, United Way of Greater Cleveland is going beyond treating the effects of poverty. It’s going after the causes of poverty. It’s building partnerships to promote economic growth and secure regional prosperity.

In one particularly exciting development, United Way of Greater Cleveland is serving as the bridge organization for the Greater Cleveland Consortium for Affordable Health – a federal initiative to improve access to social services by embedding agencies in provider locations.

The Cleveland Clinic is collaborating with MetroHealth Systems, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, Case Western Reserve University, Better Health Partnership, and the Cuyahoga County Board of Health to make this initiative a success. And I’m proud to point out that it is United Way of Greater Cleveland that is bringing us all together.

As chair of the 2018-19 United Way of Greater Cleveland Campaign, I want us to astound the world with our generosity to this most worthy effort.

There is only one way Greater Clevelanders are going to enjoy better and healthier lives – and that is together. If we are united in our determination to create the conditions that lead to better health, we cannot fail to make our region a model of success for all Americans. 

Dr. Toby Cosgrove is the former CEO and president and the current executive advisor of the Cleveland Clinic. He has volunteered to chair the United Way of Greater Cleveland 2018-19 Campaign.

*************

Have something to say about this topic? Use the comments to share your thoughts. Then, stay informed when readers reply to your comments by using the “Follow” option at the top of the comments, and look for updates via the small blue bell in the lower right as you look at more stories on cleveland.com.

AP RADIO
Update hourly