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Grants to 4 nonprofits help fix obstacles that prevent Cleveland residents from living a healthier life

Posted at 9:05 AM, Aug 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-29 18:07:36-04

CLEVELAND — Where you live has a lot to do with your health. Data shows people in Cleveland — one of the poorest cities in the nation — have plenty of obstacles when it comes to their well-being.

Nearly 80% of what influences a person’s health is actually due to non-medical issues.

Things like transportation, housing, and food.

It’s why one health insurance company is working to tackle the root of the issue.

United Healthcare awarded four Cleveland-area nonprofits more than a million dollars in grants recently.

At Senior Citizen Resources in Old Brooklyn, the money was used to purchase transportation vans.

“Transportation to get people where they need to go, whether it be to shopping, a food bank, to medical appointments,” said Liz Kilroy-Hernandez, executive director at Senior Citizen Resources. “Transportation is really the lynchpin of all we do.”

It also helps combat isolation for seniors, which can result in poorer health outcomes.

East End Neighborhood Resources is another grant recipient, getting two 15-passenger vans to transport teens and seniors in need in the Buckeye neighborhood.

“This grant means the world to us,” said Zulma Zabala, CEO at East End.

Zabala said a health insurance company funding nonprofits like this might surprise some people, but it makes sense. And she hopes other corporations can take note.

“Because at the end of the day, you know, what happens to one person should matter to the rest of us regardless of where you work or what entity you represent,” Zabala said.

United Healthcare says oftentimes, the health care system directs a lot of its financial resources to treating illnesses instead of addressing underlying social needs.

And that’s something they’re working to change.

“Things that impact people that maybe you and I don’t normally think about that could be a detriment to them staying healthy and get about in the community and to live a full life,” explained Tom Sullivan, executive director of United Healthcare for Northern Ohio.

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks is another grant recipient, receiving $500,000 for refrigerated trucks, fridges and freezers for food pantries across our state.

Sullivan said they will be making similar grants every year.

They’ve even created a committee to figure out exactly where the need is most in Ohio, and specifically in Cleveland.

This story is part of A Better Land, an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here.