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In-Depth: Northeast Ohio coalition issues plan to help with local black health disparity

N.E. Ohio coalition issues plan to help with local black health disparity
N.E. Ohio coalition issues plan to help with local black health disparity
Posted at 6:50 AM, Apr 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-13 06:50:53-04

CLEVELAND — The Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition issued a 54-page page plan it believes will help to reduce the growing health disparity in the African-American community.

Coalition Executive Director Yvonka Hall pointed the latest vital statistics reportissued by the Centers for Disease Control, indicating the average life expectancy among Non-Hispanic black Americans dropped from 74.7-years in 2019, to 72-years in 2020, while life expectancy among Non-Hispanic white Americans dropped from 78.8-years to 78-years in the same time period.

Hall said her agency's report titled "African America Rescue Plan," outlines four key areas where local improvements need to be made to close the African-American health gap.

Hall is urging the City of Cleveland to move some of the anticipated $540 million in CARES Act money it will soon receive to support health programs that can turn around the growing health disparity.

Hall said even though Cleveland declared racism a health crisis in June 2020, it must assign financial resources, make key policy changes and come up with a comprehensive plan to trigger real change.

“The CARES Act is our way to invest in our community," Hall said. “We now have the money to do the things that need to be done, but do we have the will. We have the data to prove it, the death rates to prove it, we have COVID data to prove it, so what other kind of proof do we need," she said.

“You can’t just declare something as a public health crisis and not be willing to address the issues that lead to that crisis. It's not just the City of Cleveland, but our hospital systems, Metro, U.H, the Cleveland Clinic must also say we need to have some anti-racism strategies in place," Hall said.

“Disease, disability and death disproportionally impact the African American community, and we have to have strategies that address that issue.”

“It’s an opportunity to re-think outside the box on how we can change our communities as we move ahead.”

Hall said the plan will be submitted to Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland City Council, Senator Sherrod Brown and Cuyahoga County leadership.

Dr. Zachery Williams, who leads the African American Policy Committee with the Northeast Ohio Black Health Coalition told News 5 the plan calls for improvements in a housing environment, education, health and employment.

“Cleveland can be ahead of the game," Williams said. “One of the areas that really rang the truest was closing the digital divide.”

“We can create health in science circular-based programs, foster care programs, drug policy decriminalization, and allocation of funds for addiction treatment," Williams said.

Al Porter, president of Black on Black Crime Inc. said his organization has been conducting community outreach and education to help the African-American community with ongoing health disparities, but said without CARES Act funding, significant change can't happen.

“Even the infant mortality rate in our community is sky high," Porter said. The money is definitely needed because a lot of us already doing diversionary programs, but it’s out of pocket or it’s for free, so we’re only able to help the minimum.”