Today, I am pleased to announce the winners of the Beacon Journal’s Health Disparities Project.
In November, I launched the Health Disparities Project and shared some real-life stories from people in our community about how racism has played a role in their lives and affected their health.
The words “racism is a public health crisis” became a new lexicon as protests took place locally and nationwide against police brutality and structural and systemic racism following George Floyd’s death this summer.
Local and regional governments, school boards and nonprofits passed proclamations seeking to identify possible solutions to the ways that racism negatively affects the lives of people of color, from housing and redlining to educational opportunities and health insurance being tied to employment.
Along with sharing real-life stories, I also had a column explaining how I was taking $3,000 that I received as part of a health-reporting grant from Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions and paying it forward.
We invited grassroot groups or individuals in Summit County that are working to be part of the solution to address racism as a public health crisis to apply for one of three awards for $1,000 each.
A diverse group of community judges reviewed the applications submitted and chose three winners.
The winners are:
• The Bridges Program, an initiative of Dreams Academy. This program stemmed from the Akron Community Foundation’s “On the Table” event in 2019 in which Dreams Academy hosted a conversation about race. Dreams Academy will be working on a program to have high school students discuss, educate and inform students about key topics such as implicit bias, system racism and how racism exists in education.
• F3, a peer-led boot camp style workout for men across the country. The three F’s stand for Fitness, Fellowship and Faith. An existing F3 group in Copley will be working to expand and start another group to encourage more diversity and frank discussions about race while focusing on fitness and faith.
• Proyecto RAICES, a program that has been serving the Hispanic/Latino youth in Akron for more than 15 years, will work with Northeast Ohio Medical University students on a program to teach through online bilingual cooking demonstrations how to modify existing favorite foods with ingredients that are healthier, but still tasty.
“I speak for all of the judges in saying that we were honored to be asked to participate,” said Marty Hauser, who chaired the group. Hauser is the retired longtime SummaCare CEO who is active in the Akron community and now vice president of strategic accounts for ExactCare.
“We were impressed by the unique and innovative programs described in the applications and congratulate the three recipients. We also want to acknowledge and thank all of the applicants for the work they are doing every day in our community to address this important issue,” Hauser said.
As we rolled out the project, a great thing happened: Community members reached out and asked if they could add money to the award pot. It would be their way of helping to solve the problem by helping local groups.
The Beacon Journal and the judges decided to take the additional donations from the community for the project, which in December were a little more than $6,000, and open a second round of applications. This gives more groups an opportunity to apply; previous applicants also were encouraged to re-apply.
Big thanks goes to my panel of five judges, who evaluated the first round of applications and have agreed to continue for the second round.
In addition to Hauser, they are:
• Robert DeJournett: Formerly system director of community relations and diversity for Summa Health, now vice president of opportunity and inclusion for the Greater Akron Chamber.
• Donna Delgado: Senior strategist of digital marketing for Summa Health and graduate of Leadership Akron’s Diversity on Board.
• Dr. Amy Lee: Northeast Ohio Medical University professor of family and community medicine and program director for the Consortium of Eastern Ohio Master of Public Health program. Also board chair of Asian Services in Action Inc. (ASIA Inc.) in Akron.
• Shaleeta Smith: Manager of maternal-child health with Summit County Public Health. Also serves as vice president of the Akron Urban League Young Professionals. She is a 2020 recipient of the Greater Akron Chamber “30 for the Future” award.
Watch for feature stories in the coming month or so about our first round of winners and more details about the next round of applications.
Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or [email protected] Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ To see her most recent stories and columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher