Why a Dayton hospital is starting a center to focus on equity

Staff with the Center for Health Equity stand in the Connor Child Health Pavilion, where the center will be based. More staff have since been hired. CONTRIBUTED
Caption
Staff with the Center for Health Equity stand in the Connor Child Health Pavilion, where the center will be based. More staff have since been hired. CONTRIBUTED

Initiative will focus on the ‘why’ behind health disparities.

Dayton Children’s Hospital is opening a new center, where a team will work to understand and improve health beyond the walls of the hospital.

Factors in a child’s neighborhood, home and community can translate to poor health that can’t be fixed only in the doctor’s office.

The pediatric hospital’s new Center for Health Equity has a team of about 15 who say they will be working with community members with the goal of finding out why children aren’t thriving and then work on providing the support necessary at a much earlier point.

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Some of the staff on the team were already at the hospital, which already had community health programs like supporting a medical-legal partnership for children.

But one aspect that’s new is new resources toward measuring outcomes through an equity lens, with the help of researchers hired to track and measure data, according to Jessica Saunders, executive director of the Center for Health Equity.

“We’ll be evaluating much more rigorously the work that we’ve been doing previously under the community health umbrella,” Saunders said.

Saunders said they hired researchers who had experience and commitment to doing research with community included in the process such as patients, families, neighborhood residents and community organizations, depending on the type of project.

“I don’t even want to say ‘voices at the table.’ Their voice is integral to the work, from identifying research projects all the way to dissemination of what we find out,” Saunders said.

The center has approval from the hospital’s foundation for $800,000 for the first year and they have additionally received other grants and are seeking more funding sources.

The center in the last month hired many of the new researchers and on Oct. 4 the center was officially introduced to the hospital and community. But since the center was first approved by the hospital board in the spring, it has already named a few projects and interest areas.

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This includes that Dayton Children’s will start a 21st Century Learning Center After School Program at Kiser Neighborhood Schools Center in Old North Dayton.

The center wants to target injury prevention programs more specifically to neighborhoods and communities where we see the greatest number of injuries but fewer resources to prevent injuries.

They also plan to create “Equity Action Labs” which will address health disparities by engaging community partners, patients and staff in meaningful projects of their interest and design.

In Montgomery County, where the center will serve, the sharp racial disparities, poverty and poor health outcomes of children are well-documented

About nine out of every 1,000 babies die before age 1 and Black infants are more likely to die than white infants. About 23% of Montgomery County children lived in poverty as of 2019, though the Child Tax Credit payments are estimated to have decreased the poverty rate.

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Cynthia Sieck, hired as director of health outcomes research, coming from the Ohio State University College of Medicine, said they view the community as partners and plan to share what they learn locally and beyond Dayton.

“Because we know that across the country, health care systems, in general, and communities are really struggling to address these social factors that can influence health and lead to disparities,” she said.