In several neighborhoods in Toledo’s central city, many residents don’t have the resources to purchase the most up-to-date toys for their children. This is a concern that many young families in the area worry about – that their children will have a developmental disadvantage.
But at a recent event in a busy branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Library, parents learned that common household items can be used to help with a child’s counting, learning colors and hand-eye coordination. Through an event sponsored by our ministry and the Getting Healthy Zone, parents learned that what they had at home was just as effective, lots of fun and equally educational, without the burden of an added cost.
Concerned about the high infant mortality rate in some of Toledo’s most vulnerable neighborhoods, we engaged residents and community partners in 2018 to come together to share their insights and experiences. What evolved was the building of a true community, known as the Getting Healthy Zone.
“Infant mortality rate is not only a measure of the risk of infant death, but it can be broadly used as an indicator of so much more,” Cindy Pisano, supervisor of Mercy Health Healthy Connections, shares. “Through conversations within the neighborhoods, a plan was developed to support residents that addressed the social determinants of health and structural racism, the root of poor birth outcomes.”
The Getting Healthy Zone grew into a community of neighborhood residents with more than 25 community partners and four identifiable goals.
These goals are:
- To connect residents with information and resources to increase infant vitality and to promote and/or improve their health.
- To connect residents with living wage jobs and job training and assist them with credit repair and home ownership.
- To connect entrepreneurs with needed resources.
- To create a usable park for residents.
And with each goal came programs, events and, ultimately, successes.
In 2018, 12 percent of the infants who died prior to the age of 1 in Lucas County were in the 43608, 43610 and 43620 zip codes. Our ministry responded with a variety of programs focused on helping birth outcomes. The result: From 2019 to 2022, that number decreased to 5 percent.
“For families in the Getting Healthy Zone participating in Mercy Health’s programs such as Pathways, Home Visitation and Mother Child Dependency, there were no infant deaths during this time period,” Cindy shares. “Additionally, the group comes together to think of innovative and fun ways to offer resources to families. That was the genesis of events such as Love Your Baby, Kids Don’t Come with Instructions and our back-to-school events. These are fun ways to bring mothers and families together while providing valuable health and wellbeing information.”
At a recent event, parents interacted with one of our doctors who was offering a session on the importance of health and wellbeing access for youngsters. Parents were thankful for the time and opportunity to ask questions in an informal setting. This is just one of the ways our ministry promotes healthy habits and chronic disease management in the Getting Healthy Zone.
Through a variety of programs designed to help individual manage conditions, such as diabetes, and stay in the know about their health through regular blood pressure and blood glucose level checks, Mercy Health has helped hundreds of individuals in the Toledo area take control of their health.
The work of the Getting Healthy Zone doesn’t end there. The teams have also come together to tackle financial instability in the region.
The Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) is a partnership between Mercy Health, LISC and Neighborworks Toledo Region. The FOC works with area residents to help increase their monthly income, increase their net worth, increase their FICO credit score and find living wage jobs. In 2022 alone, 265 residents participated in services offered at the FOC.
Additionally, Mercy Health’s Innovation Team conducted online classes as well as classes at local branches of the library to help budding and established entrepreneurs. Participants who attended and completed the coursework received a free laptop computer for their business. In 2022, 85 entrepreneurs participated and qualified for a computer. Program staff also worked with 19 businesses owners in the Getting Healthy Zone to help them grow their businesses as part of the Entrepreneurial Services Program (ESP) funded by the Ohio Third Frontier.
“This is truly a collaborative effort among our community partners, area residents and the teams at Mercy Health,” Cindy says. “Together we continue to make strides as we tackle some of the community’s most important social issues. I’m excited about the progress we’ve seen so far and look forward to future successes.”