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Summa Health joins the cause to reduce racial disparity in Akron communities

Posted February 07, 2022 by Tracy Carter & Iriel Hopkins, MSW, LSW

Group of Diverse People

With a national spotlight on racism in recent years, numerous efforts across the country are underway to help reduce racial disparity, and the city of Akron and Summa Health are jumping in to join the fight.

Last summer, the city of Akron declared racism a public health crisis and put plans in place to reduce racial disparity here at home through the newly created Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce. The taskforce’s mission is to build public trust by making recommendations of policy change to create a more racially, equitable, socially just community and to bridge the racial wealth divide in Akron.

The taskforce is made up of six subcommittees that each focused on a specific area to identify problems, examine potential responses, research best practices and ultimately recommend policy solutions. The subcommittees then presented their findings to the Executive Taskforce, which prioritized policy and program opportunities for the Akron Mayor Daniel Horrigan and Akron City Council to consider as they work to advance inclusion and equity strategies for city of Akron residents.

Summa Health along with other Akron-based organizations joined the cause to help reduce racial disparities specifically in health care. Racial discrimination leads to negative consequences for both patients and providers, leading to higher risk of illness, strains on mental health and lower life expectancies.

Iriel Hopkins, Summa Health’s system director for community relations and diversity, served as Chairman of the Health and Healthcare Subcommittee. Tracy Carter, in her capacity as a city of Akron resident, , served on the Health and Healthcare Subcommittee and the Executive Taskforce. Lastly, Dr. Michael Hughes served as a member of the Executive Taskforce.

Hopkins, Carter and the rest of the Health and Healthcare Subcommittee spent a year identifying problems and researching solutions to reduce racial disparities in health care. The subcommittee’s final policy recommendations included:

  • Assure that the City of Akron’s health plan and employee assistance vendors have African-American providers who can better meet the physical and mental health needs of the city’s diverse workforce.
  • Create a new position and hire talent that is dedicated and accountable for promoting positive youth development by reducing youth violence through community-based interventions.
  • Create a City of Akron Diversity Scorecard, which would be available to the public, to track progress and outcomes in practicing diversity, equity and inclusion with its leadership, hiring and supplier chain practices.

In December, the Executive Taskforce outlined policy-change recommendations from the subcommittees in a five-year strategic plan and presented it to Mayor Horrigan and City Council to implement. The strategic plan included specific policy recommendations, timelines and funding allocations required to achieve them. 

Summa Health is proud to announce one step in the right direction. As a result of the Health and Healthcare Subcommittee’s recommendations, a Violence Intervention and Prevention Coordinator position was created and posted for hire.

While there’s much more to be done, the city of Akron, Summa Health along with other local entities, have begun the necessary steps to tear down the walls of racism.


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