Urban Health Initiative

Community & Collaboration Team

Elaine Borawski, PhD, Director
Kurt Stange, MD, Co-Director
Mark Chance, PhD, Co-Director

The Urban Health Initiative (UHI), in partnership with community institutions, seeks to ensure all Cuyahoga County residents are healthy, live in a healthy environment, and contribute to a strong economy. Its mission is to foster improved health of community residents through strategically leveraging the research, teaching and service resources of Case Western Reserve University in partnership with community stakeholders.

The program is part of the Weatherhead Institute for Family Medicine and Community Health and is focused on 3 primary goals:

  • Escalate and promote research initiatives and teaching opportunities for physicians, health providers, researchers, and community organizations
  • Engage neighborhood residents, community educators, government officials, and philanthropy to ultimately support and promote wellness in urban areas of Northeast Ohio.
  • Forge partnerships with the University and community in healthcare and education.

Early Childhood Obesity

Young children spend a significant portion of their waking hours in childcare and preschool settings, and establish physical activity habits and food preferences that may last a lifetime. In addition to the direct influence they have on children, childcare employees and administrators also have the opportunity to engage parents in supporting children’s healthy growth.  In response to this need, The Urban Health Initiative created and operates RaisingHealthyKidz.org, a searchable online resource where early care and learning providers, and families with young children can find curated information on improving nutrition and physical activity for children age 0-5.

All material on the website has been curated by registered dieticians including much work completed by students in the Department of Nutrition, working under faculty supervision.

Increasing Access to Data on Health and Social Determinants of Health

Cleveland, like other cities across the country, experiences extreme health disparities, with people in some zip codes living 20 years longer than people in other areas.  Health care only determines a small fraction of differences in life expectancy and in overall health.  Rather, environmental, social and behavioral factors determine the majority of differences in health outcomes.  To shed light on these crucial dynamics, the Urban Health Initiative, on behalf of many community partners, created Health Data Matters as a one-stop shop for finding hyperlocal data on health and the social determinants of health.  At healthdatamatters.org, you can find datasets, links to data resources, and a thought-provoking blog.  At hdm.livestories.com/, you can find easy to use data visualization tools and "Live Stories" with powerful interactive ways of looking at the data.  Health Data Matters is operated in partnership with Dr. Scott Frank, the Master's in Public Health Program, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, and many other local partners.

Health Innovation

The Urban Health Initiative also undertakes numerous efforts to bring innovation to community health and wellness, public health and population health; we also bring public health perspectives to innovation that is centered in and around health care.  To get involved, compete in the annual Cleveland Medical Hackathon.  To stay up to date on these activities, join the free Cleveland Public Health Innovation Meetup Group.

Addressing Digital Skills and Connectivity as a Social Determinant of Health

Studies at MetroHealth System and elsewhere have documented dramatic disparities in use of patient-facing health technologies, such as portals to electronic health records.  The Urban Health Initiative has pioneered a new model—of training community health workers (CHWs) to screen health system patients for digital skills and connectivity, and refer them to local partners to address these gaps.  Once patients are able to use a computer and/or smartphone, CHWs will help patients learn to use portals, remote monitors, telehealth, and other health technology tools.

Creating Evidence for Digital Medicine

As a member of the Leadership Committee of the Network of Digital Evidence for Health (NODEHealth), Urban Health Initiative Director, Amy Sheon, is helping to establish evidence standards for digital medicine.  NODE Health is the only non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that digital medicine technologies that do not require FDA regulation have evidence for their effectiveness.