FOCUS ON: HEALTH EQUITY
You can’t have a conversation in Greater Cincinnati about health equity without including bi3, a philanthropic initiative led and grown by Jill Miller, president and CEO of Bethesda Inc. and bi3, also a strategic partner of TriHealth, one of the region’s largest health care providers.
bi3 has invested $86 million in TriHealth and community-based organizations, and in June announced another round of $4.72 million in investments (scroll to bottom of article).
Before joining Bethesda, Miller co-founded Cincinnati Red Joey Votto’s public foundation. She holds a business economics degree from Ohio’s Miami University and MBA from Xavier University. She is a 2016 YWCA Rising Star, a member of Leadership Cincinnati Class 39 and the Business Courier’s 2016 Forty Under 40 class. She recently received the Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service for chairing the COVID-19 Regional Response Funders Collaborative.
Miller talked with Movers & Makers about health equity in Greater Cincinnati:
What is health equity?
Health equity is when every person has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, this is not the case today.
For example, when I was pregnant, I benefited from the privilege of easily driving to my obstetric appointments, readily accessing healthy foods, sleeping well at night in my safe home and trusting my clinical team to provide the quality and safe care I deserved. A Black woman I met who lives 12 miles from my home had a very different experience. She relied on a bus to get her to her prenatal appointments, had no access to healthy food and lay awake at night worrying about an electrical issue in her apartment that her landlord would not fix. She also feared her voice would not be heard and she would face discrimination when she delivered her baby.
Many factors outside of a person’s control, such as discrimination and lack of access to resources, can prevent them from achieving their best health. As a community, we must come together in new ways to remove barriers that stand in the way of good health.
bi3 – a philanthropic initiative to transform health – is prioritizing health equity, adopting its definition from Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy thought and research: “Health equity is an outcome and a process. Health equity means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.”
Lack of access to these resources results in health disparities – differences in health status based on race, ethnicity, education, income or disability status.
Why should everyone care about health disparities?
Health is a human right. But is it right that refugees struggle to access our complex healthcare system? Is it right for children to wait six months to a year to receive behavioral health services? Is it right that your ZIP code is a greater predictor of your health and life expectancy than your genetic code? Mount Adams residents can expect to live up to 25 years longer than their neighbors in Price Hill, just 5 miles away.
Additionally, everyone pays the price for poor health. The United States spends the most on healthcare, yet we have worse health outcomes than other modernized countries worldwide. According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, racial health disparities result in about $93 billion in excess medical care costs and $42 billion in lost productivity each year.
How is bi3 working to reduce health disparities?
We are leading the way to a day when every person has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible by making philanthropic investments to advance innovation and fuel initiatives to reduce barriers and health disparities.
First, we are leveraging our strategic partnership with TriHealth. We are investing $5 million to accelerate efforts to build a more equitable and inclusive healthcare culture and to measurably address health disparities, including training 12,000 TriHealth team members on implicit bias.
bi3 also invested $7 million to create and help endow TriHealth’s School to Work Program that inspires minority students from Cincinnati Public Schools to pursue a career in healthcare in order to build a more diverse healthcare workforce that mirrors the community in which it serves. We’ve seen all participants graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary education, as well as several awarded scholarships in our first two years.
We also move beyond clinical walls, listening to and partnering with our community to address health disparities. For almost a decade, we have been fueling collective efforts to address the Black infant death crisis in Hamilton County, including developing a new model of care that surrounds women with the support they need to have a healthy pregnancy. In 2020, our partner Cradle Cincinnati announced the lowest infant mortality rate for white and Black babies on record and noted that the number of Black preterm birth-related infant deaths has fallen by one-third of what it was seven years ago. I am proud to say hundreds of babies are alive today because of that ongoing work.
The key to success is listening to those with lived experience and engaging with them to develop new solutions to address deep-seated community health issues. We see this practice as we lean into Cradle Cincinnati’s Queens Village to create an idea for advancing equitable and quality healthcare for Black moms-to-be.
What can someone do to contribute to building health equity in our community?
Racism and discrimination are the root causes that exacerbate health disparities. I invite you to join me in conversations around racial equity. Read a book such as Mel Gravely’s “Dear White Friend.”
Sign up to attend the Groundwater or Phase 1 sessions of Greater Cincinnati Foundation’s Racial Equity Matters Series, presented by bi3 and free to the public. I can honestly say that attending both sessions changed my life perspective and propelled my racial equity journey.
We face many health challenges and disparities, but I believe in our community. We are home to leading healthcare systems, corporations and community-based organizations with a heart and desire to build a healthy community where all people achieve their best health. Let’s connect hearts and minds and get to work.
bi3 grants $4.72 million to battle disparities
Six organizations that focus on serving Black and communities of color and individuals with lower incomes or disabilities will receive $4.72 million in bi3’s health equity grant competition. The recipients are:
- $580,000 to The Health Collaborative in partnership with Cradle Cincinnati to support the development, implementation and initial evaluation of Mama Certified, a program developed by Cradle Cincinnati’s Queens Village to improve maternal care for Black parents-to-be. The program will help parents assess birthing centers and ensure babies of color receive equitable care.
- $695,000 to Lighthouse Youth and Family Services to develop the Lighthouse Clinic, which will expand mental health services by providing in-house psychiatric care to youth under age 24 who face barriers to access.
- $1.5 Million to Women Helping Women to support their Rise Beyond Violence campaign. Funding from bi3 will help scale school-based prevention programming in Cincinnati Public Schools and the Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team to all 49 police jurisdictions in Hamilton County as well as expand organizational capacity and technology.
- $1.5 Million to Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky Behavioral Health to support its Expanding Mental Health Services in a Pandemic Climate Campaign. bi3 funding will contribute to the expansion of CHNK’s mental health and family preservation services by 55%. CHNK currently partners with 16 school districts with increasing demand and is pursuing public-private funding partnerships to support the initiative.
- $100,000 to Mental Health and Addiction Advocacy Coalition to support Racial Equity and Behavioral Health Research, Analysis and Reporting, which will fill a significant gap in knowledge around mental health equity. Partners will gather and analyze statewide data and make recommendations to improve policy.
- $300,000 to Refugee Connect to expand its Health Navigator Program, connecting refugee and immigrant families to a local cultural leader with native language skills to address health-related needs and help them navigate the healthcare system.
- $45,000 to Every Child Succeeds to support the development and implementation of a sustainable fundraising model through a capacity building partnership with Ignite Philanthropy. Every Child Succeeds provides comprehensive, evidence-based home visitation and mental health support for families from low-income backgrounds. ECS’s goal is to build more sustainable sources of revenue.
Read more from our July 2022 issue focusing on Health Equity: Interview with Kate Schroder, president and CEO of Interact for Health.