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Grassroots Mobilization to Eliminate Health Disparities

By Renee Harris, President and CEO of The Center for Closing the Health Gap.

The Center for Closing the Health Gap is a community-based grassroots non-profit health organization with a clear mission to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities in minority populations within the Greater Cincinnati Area.  Since 2004, we have reached over 420,000 people via our innovative, tailored evidenced-based programming.  Our approach is to engage and empower African Americans, Latinos, and white Appalachians to live healthier lives by developing solutions through Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR).  We also initiate solutions at the policy level, and collaborate with health care organizations to develop and implement evidence-based interventions and innovative programs to deliver our mission. 

Our work is based on the principle that the people most affected by health disparities must lead the movement.  Our programming enables people, families to formulate their own interventions, and monitor their progress.  The Health Gap’s Grassroots Mobilization Model engages, advocates, and empowers community movements.  Data from our evidenced-based initiatives, and examination of proposed solutions to alleviate racial/health inequities are reviewed for publication to encourage reapplication.

Health disparities that have persisted in the United States since it was first identified by the Health & Human Services Secretary in 1985.  Black and Brown people in Hamilton and the nation have higher rates of hypertension, asthma, diabetes, and co-morbidities of these chronic diseases, (all of which increase the risk for serious complications from COVID-19).  The higher levels of chronic disease are linked to our structural and institutional systems, including housing discrimination, neighborhood proximity to toxic areas, food deserts, higher uninsured rates. These Social Determinants of Health factors negatively impact the physical and mental health of Black Americans. and the psychological distress of being marginalized, dealing with racial microaggressions and instances of overt racism.

All of our 15 initiatives are directed toward to one goal: improving health outcomes for our Black, Latinx and Appalachian communities.
  • We meet people where they are. Engaging with people in the community across ages and socioeconomic status.
  • We support communities by equipping people on how to live healthier lives by activating their individual agency.
  • We promote organizational collaboration to meet the vast needs of the marginalized by galvanizing gifts, resources and funding to collectively develop effective, long-term strategies.
The We Must Save Us Campaign Hamilton County partnered with the Center for Closing the Health Gap in Greater Cincinnati to develop and execute the Mitigating the Impact of Covid-19 on Marginalized Populations Initiative that began in November 2020.  Over 60 community partners joined to increase the awareness, build knowledge, and expand capacity to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown populations in Hamilton County. The objective of this initiative was to increase the awareness, build knowledge, and expand capacity to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on Black and Brown populations.  This initiative included primary quantitative and qualitative research, development of the call to action We Must Save Us campaign, community support groups and outcome tracking.  Our work continues with the commitment of getting more Greater Cincinnatians vaccinated.

Renee Harris will be speaking and moderating a session at the upcoming Advancing Healthcare Innovation Summit. Visit  https://ahisummits.com/ to see the full exciting schedule, and to register.  

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