Interact for Health kicked off a new era of community-led health initiatives focused on closing longstanding gaps in life expectancy – up to 26 years between neighborhoods in Greater Cincinnati – during its Journey to Health Justice event at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center on Feb. 21, 2023. The event served as the launch of the regional foundation’s new strategic plan and marked its 25th anniversary.
Priorities under the new strategy include mental health, with a strong focus on youth mental health, investments in policy and systems change and building community power.
“We know that those closest to the problems are closest to the solutions,” said Kate Schroder, Interact for Health President and CEO. “To address youth mental health, we are focused on amplifying youth voice in crafting solutions. To advance health justice, we are focused on increasing voice and agency in communities that have experienced the greatest gaps in lifespan.”
Nearly 300 attendees learned what causes gaps in lifespan between neighborhoods just miles apart, as well as effective strategies to close these gaps.
“Many people assume that access to health care, genetics or race cause the vast difference in lifespan between neighborhoods,” said Ashlee Young, Vice President of Policy and Community Engagement. “But that’s not it. The main reason is policies, such as redlining, that created differences in access to jobs, housing, quality schools and green space. These inequities were created by policies, and it will take policies to help close these gaps.”
The event featured several interactive activities throughout the museum, all designed to immerse participants in the key focus areas of the strategic plan. During the event program, the foundation announced it plans to award $2.6 million in community grants that will help fund organizations within Greater Cincinnati working in the foundation’s three priority areas. Cincinnati’s Poet Laureate Yalie Kamara read a special poem to culminate the program.
“We were thrilled to share our vision of a healthier, more equitable community,” Schroder said. “Our new strategic plan is focused on the power an engaged community can bring to its region—in addressing urgent issues like mental health and longstanding differences in lifespan between neighborhoods. Especially in the area of youth mental health, we are excited to work across sectors and partners to help wrap our arms around the youth in our region.”
For more information, visit www.interactforhealth.org