A Focus on Health


The health of a neighborhood greatly relies on improving physical assets—buildings, landmarks, streets and homes. But that investment would be hollow without a complementary focus on the health of the people who live there. In Greater University Circle and other core neighborhoods, new partnerships and grantmaking is helping Cleveland’s residents stay healthy, too.

Did You Know?

Ohio has the 16th highest adult obesity rate in the nation, and 28 percent of Clevelanders are obese.

A strong and healthy neighborhood relies on strong and healthy people, from birth all the way to the elderly.

Take Greater University Circle, for example, where the area’s youngest residents are the beneficiaries of a new, unprecedented community health partnership.

The Greater University Circle Community Health Partnership

Initiated in 2015, the Greater University Circle Community Health Partnership is a partnership between Neighborhood Connections, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and Greater University Circle residents. In March 2015, your community foundation granted $275,000 to support this effort. It starts with a focus on two priorities.

A Healthy Life from Day One

Ohio has the unfortunate distinction of ranking 47th nationally for infant mortality: the death of a baby before his or her first birthday. Worse yet, the state sinks to rock bottom, in 50th place for African-American infant mortality. The causes are many and varied. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading culprits are severe birth defects, premature birth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, complications of pregnancy and trauma such as suffocation.

With 12.9 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, Cleveland contributes significantly to our state’s poor showing on infant mortality – and some of the highest death rates are recorded in the Greater University Circle neighborhoods. For this reason, the Greater University Circle Community Health Partnership has targeted a reduction in infant mortality as one of its first two priorities.

Living Lead-Free

In neighborhoods with old housing stock, lead ingestion can poison young lives, stifling normal development and setting up children for a lifetime of severe health problems. Building on the public health success of lead abatement programs managed by the Cleveland and Cuyahoga County health departments, the Greater University Circle Community Health Partnership has set a second priority: making the area lead-safe within 10 years. While youngsters and their families will benefit most, a concerted effort to reduce lead exposure will also create jobs for local residents and help to stabilize their neighborhoods.

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The foundation’s Neighborhood Connections program helped support the “One Life, One Voice, One Community” event held at the Cleveland Convention Center to draw attention to infant mortality and help improve outcomes.

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Information tables available to “One Life, One Voice, One Community” attendees.

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Cleveland Foundation President & CEO Ronn Richard (center) in a white coat he received from Cleveland State and NEOMED administrators on the day of the grant announcement. From left to right, medical student Carl Allamby; NEOMED President Dr. Jay A. Gershen; Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson; Richard; CSU President Ronald M. Berkman; Cleveland Foundation Executive Vice President Robert E. Eckardt; Partnership Director Dr. Sonja Harris-Haywood; and the late Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressman from Ohio. Top: Allamby, who has a large family with seven children and owns an auto body repair shop, thanked the staff of Cleveland State and NEOMED for helping him fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.
Same Stream, Two Perspectives

Danielle Price has heard the upstream health concerns of residents, such as no access to fresh food. She knows how these issues manifest themselves downstream, in inappropriate use of emergency rooms and poor management of chronic diseases. Systemic problems like these surfaced repeatedly as the Greater University Circle Community Health Partnership conducted a listening campaign to hear from residents on the ground as well as front-line professionals at the major health care institutions.

“It was the same stream from two different vantage points,” said Price, Neighborhood Connections’ Program Manager for Community Engagement in Greater University Circle. She now supports the community health action team the partnership formed to address lead abatement. Another such team is focused on infant mortality. Price has a strong sense of the possibilities.

“We hear so much about Cleveland’s renaissance, and I really believe this partnership is part of that,” she said. “People are coming together around these age-old problems. We’re Clevelanders; we can do this. So let’s go out and do it.”

Urban Health Care & Beyond

To lay the groundwork for a healthier future for core city residents of all ages, the Cleveland Foundation has worked since 2009 with two academic partners: Cleveland State University and Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). These institutions formed the Partnership for Urban Health to recruit and train medical students, especially minorities underrepresented in medicine, to deliver primary care in our neighborhoods. The partnership aims to ease the critical shortage of primary care doctors in these neighborhoods and to close the gaps in morbidity and mortality between underserved populations and others with ready access to quality health care.

Last June, your community foundation made a $5.5 million grant – one of its largest in recent history – to support this initiative. The funding followed two earlier grants that bring the foundation’s total investment in the Partnership for Urban Health to more than $7.25 million.

Talk of the Town

“As Greater University Circle becomes a national model of a thriving urban neighborhood, it’s essential to address the barriers to a healthy life that many residents still face. The neighborhood’s new Community Health Initiative is a big step forward in improving health.”

—Lillian Kuri, Program Director for Arts and Urban Design, Cleveland Foundation

How can we encourage more medical students to pursue career paths in primary care?