Collaboration key to solving health inequities, Cleveland-area hospital CEOs say during Accelerating


By Julie Washington, cleveland.com

Published: May. 11, 2022, 4:21 p.m.


CLEVELAND, Ohio — Since Metro Health System CEO Dr. Akram Boutros’ 2019 City Club speech in which he blamed structural racism and childhood trauma for many of Cuyahoga County’s public health crises, some organizations that pledged to help are backing away from their commitments, he reported Wednesday.


“I’m seeing backlash, dragging their feet on promises they made and all of those things,” Boutros said. “So, I will tell you that in fact, I’m not getting all these declarations (of support). I am seeing them slipping very quickly in the past six months.”


Boutros, in speaking at the 2022 Accelerating Health Equity Conference in downtown Cleveland, did not name specific organizations, but rather talked in general terms.


Yet even with what Boutros described as a “dragging their feet” by some, he said progress is being made.


He and other area healthcare leaders stressed the importance of collaboration for solving the region’s health disparities.


The conference, which ends Thursday, has drawn speakers and participants from across the country to address how structural racism and economic disadvantages prevent people and communities from enjoying their best health. The conference is sponsored by the American Hospital Association.


University Hospitals CEO Dr. Cliff Megerian, Cleveland Clinic Chief of Staff Dr. Beri Ridgeway and Boutros took part in a panel titled, “Partnering to Invest in Communities: Dialogue with Cleveland Health System Leaders.”


Moderating was Frank Sesno, former CNN anchor and Washington bureau chief, and former director of the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs.


Sesno asked the healthcare leaders to describe how they are collaborating to solve community problems such as lead poisoning, infant mortality, maternal health, food deserts and more.


The healthcare leaders pointed to projects such as UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Ahuja Center for Women & Children located in an area of Cleveland with high infant mortality, MetroHealth’s deal with Cuyahoga County Council to oversee all health care in the county jails, and Clinic’s focus on infant mortality and lead poisoning as examples of ways that health systems are taking medicine to the people.


Healthcare executives are competitive by nature, but in the past three to four years, Cleveland’s major hospitals have begun collaborations to improve community health, Boutros said. It started with the top hospital leaders meeting for dinner, finding common ground and building trust.


“Once there’s trust, unbelievable things happen,” Boutros said.


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