In an area of rapid growth for the Kirwan Institute, we have forged new partnerships with experts in the fields of medicine and public health to promote community- and place-based efforts to improve health and health outcomes.
Our work has produced critical lessons in bridging research, advocacy and policy change, including connecting with local leadership, building capacity, and creating the conditions for sustainable implementation. In 2012, Executive Director Sharon Davies launched the health equity program. Building upon our experience in systems theory, mapping and place-based interventions, we partner with government agencies, organizations and individuals both locally and nationally to support equitable health policy and practice.
Kirwan will continue to expand on this work to help educate the public, practitioners, community organizers and policymakers about the central role that regional and community development policies and fair and stable housing polices can play in addressing deep, structural health inequalities.
Much of the health equity work at the Kirwan Institute focuses on the ways in which structural racism has created an inequitable distribution of social determinants of health throughout communities. The Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) are defined as the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.
The figure below breaks down how different health factors contribute to health outcomes such as length or quality of life. Typically, when people think about what makes a population’s healthy or unhealthy, we first think of health behaviors and the clinical care that people receive. However, research documents that these two factors only account for 50% of what contribute to overall health outcomes. The other 50% are consist of the social determinants of health. This is representing by the social and economic factors and the physical environment in the figure.
Our work seeks to examine both policies and programs to ensure that all communities have access to the resources needed to achieve optimal health. In this work, we collaborate with state and local public health agencies, non-for-profit, and community organizations.
Engaging in local Health Equity Work
Kirwan staff are actively engaged in several local and statewide work groups focused on health equity. Some of these work groups include:
• The Health Equity Steering Committee at OSU Wexner Medical Center
• Health Works Franklin County
• Franklin County Public Health Life Expectancy Task Force
• Ohio Council to Advance Maternal Health (OH-CAMH)
• The Ohio Team (COVID-19 task force)
Identifying Vulnerable Populations During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kirwan Institute has engaged in work that aims to identify vulnerable populations throughout the state of Ohio. Led by Chip Allen, the director of the Department of Health Equity at the Ohio Department of Health, this team brings together expertise from the Kirwan Institute, faculty members at the Ohio State University, and staff from the Ohio Department of Health and Deloitte Consulting, LLP. Using census tract level data, this team has identified 702 neighborhoods throughout Ohio with high concentrations of vulnerable populations. Vulnerability in the context of this work is defined as census tracts with:
• High prevalence of COVID-19 underlying conditions.
• High concentrations of low-wage essential workers (150% federal poverty level)
• Households who will have difficulty social distancing.
• Households without capacity to weather long-term social and economic upheaval.
• Households without necessary resources located in proximity (e.g. hospitals, grocery stores, transportation).
This work aims to pinpoint where neighborhoods with the greatest needs are in order to reduce the disparate burden of COVID-19. Insight reports identifying these communities as well has recommendations for interventions, such as potential locations for pop-up COVID-19 testing sites, have been produced and shared with the Ohio Governor’s office. As we continue to combat COVID-19 disparities, Kirwan is committed to remain engage in this critical work.