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10/4/21 news article

Dayton Children’s announces the Center for Health Equity on National Child Health Day

One more step in reinventing the path to help children achieve optimal health

Dayton Children’s new Center for Health Equity takes commitment to optimal health for all children to the next level with a deep investment in resources, research, strategy and structure. The goal is to  better understand the health disparities that exist amongst our children, identify the reasons behind why a child is not thriving and work with the community to provide the support necessary at a much earlier point.

A person’s health shouldn’t depend on their skin color, zip code, level of education or income. Yet so often these factors, sometimes called “social determinants of health,” are what get between many children in the Dayton area and optimal health, putting them at high risk for diseases such as obesity, diabetes and uncontrolled asthma (see infographic). 

This is not a short-term strategy, nor is it a quick fix.

Dayton Children’s has been addressing this problem for many years through hospital-based programs and partnerships with other community organizations. The reasons for the problem are complex. No one organization can provide a single solution. But as one of the city’s largest employers and the only institution in the Dayton area entirely dedicated to pediatric health care, Dayton Children’s has a unique responsibility to help delve into the “why” behind health disparities (see infographic) and work with our partners and parents to find solutions.

an idea is born

The Center grew out of a larger conversation at Dayton Children’s, says Jessica Saunders, executive director of the Center for Health Equity. “In the last two years in our country, there’s been a heightened recognition of the health disparities that exist in our community and across the country and an understanding that race and socioeconomic status are large social drivers of health and well-being,” she says. 

“We’re really investing in this work,” says Saunders. “We’ve doubled our staff (pictured), adding the positions unique to finding the connections between health outcomes and social factors. We’ve hired researchers to gather the right data, track and measure it, and find opportunities to help that we might have been missing. We hope the connections we find will inform our work with our community partners for a more unified approach.”

A few opportunities have already been discovered:

  • Recognizing the impact that education has on long-term health outcomes and the importance of building life-long skills for a diverse workforce, Dayton Children’s will start a 21st Century Learning Center After School Program at Kiser Neighborhood Schools Center in Old North Dayton.
  • Injury prevention programs will be targeted more specifically to neighborhoods and communities where we see the greatest number of injuries but fewer resources to prevent injuries.
  • We will create “Equity Action Labs” which will address health disparities by engaging community partners, patients and staff in meaningful projects of their interest and design.

“If Dayton Children’s is going to achieve its mission of pursuing optimal health for all children in our reach, we have to look beyond ourselves and the way we have been doing things,” says Deborah A. Feldman, Dayton Children’s president and CEO. “We are reinventing the path to children’s health, and the path doesn’t only go through a doctor’s office or hospital—we have to work with schools, community centers, improve access to fresh food and address other barriers to give children the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives.”

Jessica Salem

Jessica Salem

executive director, Center for Health Equity
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