May 20, 2016

Mercy Medical Center anchors team that attracts grant money to Canton for health research

The city of Canton was selected by Reinvestment Fund and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to take part in the new Invest Health initiative. Invest Health is aimed at transforming how leaders from mid-size American cities work together to help low-income communities thrive, with specific attention to community features that drive health such as access to safe and affordable housing, places to play and exercise, and quality jobs.

The announcement was made earlier this week at Mercy Medical Center, who is the anchor agency for the five-member team that also consists of the city of Canton, Canton City School District, Stark Community Foundation and the Stark County Community Action Agency.

Canton will have 18 months and $60,000 to research health strategies. Representatives from each group will meet with coaches to guide their planning and will travel to Philadelphia next month for a kick-off event. Canton will also engage a broader group of local stakeholders to encourage local knowledge sharing. Learning from the program will be synthesized and disseminated through several venues and the project’s website. The planning will focus on the city's southeast end, which federal statistics show has a 65 percent poverty rate in some areas and has nearly 700 households without adequate access to a supermarket.

Canton was selected from more than 180 teams from 170 communities that applied to the initiative. Cities with populations between 50,000 and 400,000 were asked to form five-member teams including representatives from the public sector, community development, and an anchor institution, preferably academic or health-related.

“The Canton team is honored to participate in this innovative, exciting opportunity with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Reinvestment Fund to explore ways of improving the health outcomes of neighborhoods challenged by poverty, poor health, and lack of investment. We pledge to optimize this learning opportunity and will share our findings with all those committed to making Canton a great place to live, work, and play,” said Thomas E. Cecconi, president and CEO, Mercy Medical Center.

Mid-size American cities face some of the nation’s deepest challenges with entrenched poverty, poor health and a lack of investment. But they also offer fertile ground for strategies that improve health and have the potential to boost local economies. The program has the potential to fundamentally transform the way Canton improves opportunities to live healthy lives by addressing the drivers of health including jobs, housing, education, community safety and environmental conditions.

“This is a great opportunity for the City of Canton, Mayor Thomas M. Bernabei said. “We are grateful to partner with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support those in our community who are most in need of these health and wellness services.”

“With a long history in community development finance, we are excited to help create a pipeline to channel capital into low-income communities through public and private investments,” said Amanda High, chief of strategic initiatives at Reinvestment Fund. “Our goal is to transform how cities approach tough challenges, share lessons learned and spur creative collaboration.”

“Public officials, community developers, and many others have been working in low-income neighborhoods for years, but they haven’t always worked together,” said Donald Schwarz, M.D., vice president, Invest Health. “Invest Health aims to align their work and help neighborhoods thrive by intentionally incorporating health into community development.”

Read more about the announcement in The Repository.

Mercy Medical Center is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System

Canton's Invest Health team includes representatives from the sectors of health care, government, social services, education, and finance. Pictured (l to r) are Adrian Allison, Superintendent, Canton City School District; Elaine Campbell, Director, Mercy Development Foundation; Mark Samolczyk, President, Stark Community Foundation; Mayor Thomas Bernabei, City of Canton; Lisa Miller, Director, Community Development, City of Canton; Tom Turner, Vice President, Mercy Medical Center & President, Mercy Development Foundation; Fonda Williams, Deputy Mayor, City of Canton; and Tom Cecconi, President & CEO, Mercy Medical Center.

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