Springfield's Local Conversation was one of 19 such events scheduled to take place across Ohio this year. The events are a result of collaboration between the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and the National Partnership for Action (NPA) to End Health Disparities, which was organized to mobilize and connect individuals and organizations across the country to create a nation free of health disparities, with quality health outcomes for all people.
The NPA was created after experts and community leaders organized by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health (OMH), attended the National Leadership Summit on Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities in 2006.
Springfield is one of the smallest cities in the state hosting a Local Conversation, and Wittenberg is a relatively unusual location in that it is a private liberal arts college. However, Wittenberg Director of Multicultural Student Programs Forest Wortham, the event's moderator, said Springfield is an ideal city for such a conversation and Wittenberg an ideal location.
"Wittenberg is a liberal arts college committed to inquiry, strong education and community service located in the heart of a typical small Midwestern community," Wortham said. "Springfield has a varied socio-economic demographic make-up and is a place where urban meets rural. It reflects problems experienced by both large and small cities."
The Local Conversations, which are also taking place in cities throughout the country, are intended to bring about real solutions. Nearly 30 community leaders from throughout Clark County attended the event, which included a presentation by Jim Duffee, medical director at Springfield's Rocking Horse Center, breakout sessions on pertinent health care topics and a panel discussion.
Duffee's presentation included striking statistical data about the state of health care in Clark County and the challenges minorities, both ethnic and racial, face every day. He is optimistic, however, that real change is possible, starting with events like today's Local Conversation.
"We're starting the process to understand the health disparities that exist in our community," Duffee said. "We strongly believe that understanding and increasing awareness of the problems of quality and access will lead to effective interventions."
The last hour of the Local Conversation focused on answering the most important question of the day: How to complete the vision of the NPA?
The answers were numerous, but all in attendance agreed that a good start would be more collaborative efforts among various Clark County social service agencies, charitable organizations, education institutions and health care providers. Suggestions included creating a task force to improve communication, organizing minority health fairs that include screening opportunities for such risk factors as diabetes, cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, and identifying positive ways to move forward and preparing grant proposals for money available from the Ohio Commission on Minority Health.
"This event was so helpful because often the individuals with the least are the last ones taken into consideration when it comes to health care," Wortham said. "This is about helping disenfranchised people become part of the health care system so they can help bring about real change."
Written By: Ryan Maurer
Photo By: Ryan Maurer
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