CEO Corner: Closing the Health Gap Through Collaboration

Posted Wednesday December 16, 2020

Renee Mahaffey Harris

My first year as President/CEO of The Center for Closing Health Gap (The Health Gap) in 2019 began with a reassessment of the work we do, and how the community receives and is impacted by our work. We also identified what gaps exist that if filled can be a game-changer in improving the health and lives of the people we serve. My most profound learning was that most Cincinnatians do not know what we do at The Health Gap.

The Health Gap is a community-health grassroots organization with a clear mission: to eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities and make Cincinnati a healthier place to live. We do this by promoting a culture of health where we live, work, and play. The Health Gap has impacted over 365,000 people regionally.

This year our organization’s work and value have been highlighted due to the public’s newfound understanding of health disparities. I am grateful that The Health Gap and over 30 local organizations and businesses were able to meet the needs of marginalized populations in Greater Cincinnati through the COVID-19 Community Resources site – This site serves as a trusted information source to help balance the barrage of fear and uncertainty we all face daily.

The collaborative effort it took to quickly execute our vision for the COVID-19 Resources site reminded me that there are many hard-working social services organizations in Cincinnati whose mission is to serve the specific needs of marginalized populations and do it well. What is our collaborative potential to meet the vast needs of the marginalized in our region? I do not have all the answers. However, I am confident that if all of the sectors that serve our communities galvanize our gifts, resources, and funding we can collectively develop effective, long-term strategies that will significantly move the inequity needle. Health disparities not changed since first researched by the Health & Human Services Secretary in 1985.


We know all avenues that affect health stem from the answer to this question – does the individual/family have the means and tools to achieve and have healthy, productive lives? The depth of our work with neighborhoods and schools helps address the challenges of quality of life factors that impact health. It is the same battle my parents contended with. Yes, it looks different than it did 50 years ago, but it has the same impact. Regardless of socioeconomic status, health outcome disparities between black and white populations have and will continue to persist without collaborative interventions.

The Black Women’s Health Movement (BWHM) is another example of how The Health Gap is collaborating to bring about meaningful change. BWHM is designed to engage and empower African American women across the socioeconomic spectrum to live healthier lives — body and mind. The focus is on Black women because they provide a gateway to African American families since healthcare, home care, food shopping/preparation, and childcare are typically the responsibility of the mother in both single and two-parent families.

Our aim is to mobilize and connect efforts already happening in the city and provide culturally relevant, evidence-based solutions to improve the health outcomes of Black Women and their families. The Health Gap’s role in the BWHM is to facilitate an infrastructure where: women will have resources that are designed by and for them; organizations will expand their reach and have a stronger impact, and businesses will share their expertise and grow their awareness. Everyone has a place and purpose within one or more of the BWHM pillars: Physical Health, Mindful Health, Economic Health, Community Health.

Read more about The Health Gap initiatives and the Black Women’s Health Movement at

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