LEADING THE FIGHT TO END HEALTH DISPARITIES
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine issued a report entitled “Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health.” This report indicated that race and ethnicity were significant predictors of health care quality and that the vast majority of studies done showed that minorities were less likely than whites to receive necessary services, including clinically necessary procedures.
Minorities such as African Americans and Latinos and certain other minority groups in this nation bear the burden of sickness and premature death. These deaths are preventable. Yet, for well over a hundred years this nation knew of the disparities and simply did nothing to address it.
Dwight Tillery became interested in health disparities while he was a member of Cincinnati City Council. Upon leaving Council, Tillery continued his interest in this part of social injustice. In 2004, Tillery had an opportunity to propose to the Health Alliance the idea of creating a grassroots community-health based Center to address Health Disparities.
He organized a variety of groups—including the U.C. Medical School, the Health Department, community leaders, the Health Alliance and various consultants around the country who contributed to the vision, planning and implementation of Tillery’s idea. The Center became a part of the legal settlement between the Health Alliance and the City of Cincinnati and was initially funded by the Health Alliance.
In June of 2004, the Center for Closing the Health Gap held its first board meeting. Its mission was to eliminate racial and health disparities in the Greater Cincinnati community through education, advocacy, and outreach targeting the African American, Latino, and white Appalachian populations. The vision of the Health Gap was to make Greater Cincinnati a healthier region for all.
The Health Alliance was the major funder of the Health Gap along with Mercy Health Partners, TriHealth, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Within a few years, the City of Cincinnati became a funder of the Health Gap, along with other health care organizations helping to fund the grassroots organization. Tillery believed that there was something fundamentally wrong about the fact that certain populations bore the burden of sickness and premature death and that these deaths were preventable. Tillery’s vision has proven to be not only an idea whose time had come, but also one that would have an enormous impact on our under served populations. He was determined to build an organization to do something about this social injustice.