As racial inequities remain significant in Franklin County health outcomes, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Healthy Community Day is part of an effort by the center to support not just individual patients but entire communities.
After a two-year hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the event returned to Ohio State Outpatient Care East.
The event featured over 30 community partners, dozens of tables of information, music and entertainment from the East High School Marching Band and 15 different free health screenings. In the first two hours, over 130 people received free screenings.
Attendees could find tables from mentorship organizations, local assistance programs, medical departments and much more. There were also free vegetables, drug test kits and naloxone.
The relaxed atmosphere of the event offered a comfortable and fun opportunity for attendees and their children, in place of the often-clinical experience of a doctor’s visit.
“It’s a way to engage people in a nonthreatening way,” Jackiethia Busch said. “More just kind of talking, not in a formal medical setting but just T-shirts and jeans.”
Busch was the event’s lead organizer and acts as senior outreach coordinator in Wexner’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement.
Wanda Brown, 66, a longtime advocate for healthy communities, said she found the event and others like it very helpful.
“It’s extremely valuable. Without this, people won’t get screened,” she said.
Wexner employees and volunteers often use the phrase “social determinants of health,” referring to the ways that social and economic factors influence health outcomes, and much of Healthy Community Day is dedicated to addressing these factors.
“It’s not just going to the doctor. If you can’t eat, if you don’t have a roof over your head, if you can’t keep the lights on, we have people here,” said Chasity Washington, director of the Center for Cancer Health Equity, who helped coordinate with community vendors for the event.
One resource at the event was Rentful614, a private-public partnership program that connects tenants with rent assistance. Rentful614 reports the program has helped over 45,000 families.
“There’s always been a need for health equity. People of color tend to have more health disparities, more issues with access to care oftentimes,” Washington said. “A lot of that might stem from historical or systemic racism. Being here on the East Side in the community, we’re accessible to people.”
William Woods, 65, found Saturday’s event helpful, but felt that some in the Near East Side still struggled to attend.
“It’s really nice; I wish more residents would participate,” he said. “Sometimes residents are afraid to get out; sometimes they don’t have transportation or may be working.”
Other Wexner Medical Center programs to address health inequities include Community Care Coach and Moms2B.
The Community Care Coach is a mobile care unit with two exam rooms on board. Moms2B is a program to support and educate women from the time of pregnancy until the child’s first birthday. Both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, Black women have experienced significantly higher rates of infant mortality than white women.