A Letter of Support for Issue 33

Support Issue 33!

As Clevelanders, we’re fortunate to have outstanding health care institutions in Cuyahoga County, yet the overall health of our residents is poor due in large not to health care access but rather the social determinants of health.  Social determinants are the forces, systems and policies that shape daily life.  In 2018, Cuyahoga ranked 64th out of Ohio’s 88 counties in health outcomes.  The worst health outcomes are in Cleveland and many of the inner-ring suburbs, where the impacts of high poverty rates, racial segregation and community conditions create barriers to health and well-being.

In order to achieve better health outcomes and reduce health disparities for children and families, it is widely recognized that addressing the social determinants of health plays a pivotal role. Economic and social conditions, such as stable, affordable and healthy housing, reliable transportation, and access to healthy foods are all factors that can make a difference for moving upstream to prevent many health conditions like diabetes, asthma and heart disease.

Cleveland is part of five year model test through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and implemented by United Way of Greater Cleveland to help connect health care with upstream social services in order to prevent disease and promote health.  Through Accountable Health Communities (AHC), we are connecting individuals to help address the health-related social needs of Medicaid and Medicare patients at designated sites at Cleveland Clinic, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center, and MetroHealth.  Through the 3,500 patients who have been screened since late 2018 by AHC, we know that two-thirds struggle with food security and more than one-third grapple with housing stability and access to transportation.  The AHC creates a customized plan to address patients’ health-related social needs, linking them with community services that often rely on funding through the Cuyahoga County Health and Human Services levy.

That’s why we firmly endorse passage of Issue 33, the Cuyahoga County Health & Human Services levy.  Residents in every corner of Cuyahoga County access health and human service programs.   The levy not only provides direct access to health care, including mental health and addiction treatment, but it also helps families put food on the table, protects children from abuse and neglect to keep them safe, and helps seniors stay strong, independent, and in their homes and communities for long as possible.   We value the health and well-being of everyone in our community so they can build better lives.  Issue 33 is a critical investment to ensure all people in Cuyahoga County have the opportunity to be healthy.

-Mitchell Balk and Helen Forbes Fields

Co-Chairs, Accountable Health Communities Advisory Board

Mitchell Balk is president of the Mt. Sinai Health Care Foundation

Helen Forbes Fields is executive vice president and general counsel of United Way of Greater Cleveland


*Accountable Health Communities is supported by Funding Opportunity Number CMS-1P1-17-001 from the US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.