By Andria Y. Carter
Cincinnati City Council made a commitment to the Black community last Wednesday when it voted 6 to 3 to overturn a mayoral veto to fund a number of organizations including The Center for Closing the Health Gap.
The political drama surrounding the City Council’s vote regarding the Health Gap’s funding should never have occurred. The Black community—as well as some White organizations-- spoke of its support for the Health Gap. The community sent emails, letters, phone calls and over 1,200 postcards.
Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard told City Council during a public discussion, “The reason why we have the Center for Closing the Health Gap in the first place is because of the disparity of Black people are treated with regards to their health. Dennard along with Council Members Greg Landsman and Wendell Young spoke passionately about the unique work the Health Gap is doing and understands why it needs to continue the work of eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities.
Community members and Health Gap clients appeared before City Council and told their personal stories of how the Health Gap helped them. Amongst those who spoke were several mothers from the Do Right! Babies program. The young mothers noted how the Health Gap has helped them especially those living in a shelter trying to find permanent home so their young children will have a roof over their heads.
Despite the overwhelming community support, the rhetoric continues from some in the news media and certain political leaders working overtime to discredit the Health Gap’s work. Much of their effort to undermine the Health Gap’s work demonstrates a clear lack of understanding of Health Disparities and the complexities it presents. Reporter Sharon Coolidge who did the initial “investigation” of the Health Gap was on a recent radio program commented on how much money the community-health organization had received and the same health disparities remained.
Public health expert, Melicia White Glover wrote Council Members saying the “Health Gap represents the type of community-based organization that can connect with disparate communities in ways government officials and scientists cannot. The work of the Health Gap addresses important root causes of health disparities, which are critical for successfully impacting health disparities and creating models that can be implemented nationally. The Health Gap’s work is gaining national attention because of their important outcomes.
One of the Health Gap’s biggest defender is Greg Landsman. Prior to Council’s vote, Landsman noted that Blacks can expect to live 10 years less than Whites due to health disparities and called it “despicable.” “This investment and our ability to close these despicable health disparities is important,” he said.
The National Urban League released its State of Black America report last month and revealed that the health disparities gap between black and whites was narrowing, but is now stagnant and in some areas, the gap is wider. Health and racial disparities were not created in a day and will not be solved in a short period-of-time. For those to imply otherwise, their privileged view of society is clouding their judgement.
Under the late Dr. Malcom Adcock’s (former Health Commissioner) leadership, the City made a commitment to fight racial and ethnic disparities as part of the settlement with the Health Alliance.
Our city leaders have a responsibility to address the needs of its population. The Black community, especially from those who are the most vulnerable, gave city council an overwhelming response to what they wanted to be funded with their tax dollars. That means their wishes should not become political weapons because someone does not get their way. In addition to the desires of the community being served by the Health Gap, several noted local experts wrote the Council in support of the funding. For example, Dean Grear of the College of Nursing, Dr. Jun Yin, Director of the Department of Public Health, U.C, School of Medicine, and new chair of the Health Gap and Cincinnati Medical Association (local organization of black physicians).
The continuous effort to undermine the Health Gap bespeaks more profound darkness, which has nothing to do with the Health Gap or its outcomes. The Health Gap is one of a few black organizations that is singled out each year and maligned by some in the media, and a few political leaders; their behavior does not pass the smell taste of fairness, honesty, and racism.
The Black agenda cincinnati
The Black Agenda is a Movement of individuals and organizations working cooperatively to improve the lives of Black Cincinnatians. The purpose is to bring the Black Community of Cincinnati together to prioritize our challenges as a race.