• Article
  • November 8, 2017

Keeping it Local: Children’s Hospital Partners With Community Members to Revitalize Their Neighborhood

Here's how a children's hospital engages with local residents to help improve their health and well-being.

Often, a person's ZIP code is more predictive of well-being than that person's DNA. In the University Circle neighborhood of Cleveland, for example, infant mortality is at one of the highest rates in the U.S. At the 2017 Annual Leadership Conference, leaders from UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital shared their efforts to revitalize the neighborhood and the health and well-being of its residents. "What we're doing to address social determinants of health and address total health beyond the walls of our practice is adopt a change in philosophy," says Aparna Bole, M.D., FAAP, pediatrician and medical director of Community Integration at UH Rainbow Babies.

This idea is guiding the organization's planning of a flagship urban primary care facility in a previously blighted area where many of the hospital's patients live. The new facility will provide several primary care services, including mental health and dental care, under one roof. Organizationally, the hospital is also putting an emphasis on:

Living local. The hospital provides incentives for employees to live in the University Circle neighborhood and invest in healthy housing around the hospital. This influx of residents has attracted investment dollars to the area that helped fund public transportation improvements.

Hiring local. Online job postings tend to filter out people with employment risks, like someone who has never had a job or been out of the workforce for a while. "This was filtering out a lot of local candidates," Bole says. "Now, we go out in the community to recruit candidates for departments like nutrition and facilities." This effort has led to the hiring of more than 250 people who live within the neighborhood around the hospital, and after getting a start in entry-level positions, many have moved into other roles at the hospital.

Buying local. In an effort to keep dollars within the community, UH Rainbow Babies purchases the lettuce and greens for all its cafeterias from Evergreen Cooperatives, a hydroponic greenhouse in the neighborhood that provides living-wage jobs.

In addition to living, hiring and buying local, the hospital created a process to engage with members of the community. "There are always community residents at the table with us," Bole says. "The Community Advisory Board is part of our team."

Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.