Sisters of Charity Foundation plans to attack social disparities with health campus in Central

Since 1851, the Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine has worked to meet the needs of those in poverty and with mental and physical health issues. Yesterday, the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland announced its plans to take its mission a step further, with a vision to create a whole health campus in the Central neighborhood. 

<span class="content-image-text">Promise/Huntington Bank financial literacy course for students, taught by Promise ambassador Charmaine Jordan</span>Promise/Huntington Bank financial literacy course for students, taught by Promise ambassador Charmaine Jordan“The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine have 170 years of experience using innovative strategies to respond to the unmet needs of individuals, families and communities in poverty—particularly for our Black and Brown neighbors,” says Susanna Krey, senior vice president of the Sisters of Charity Health System and president of the Sisters of Charity Foundation. “Systemic racism and health disparities have always been there, and the pandemic further exacerbated them. As we begin to approach the end of the pandemic, we are ever more called to change this trajectory.”

The foundation has partnered with Boston-based MASS Design Group, a nonprofit architecture and design group known internationally for its purposeful, healing, and hopeful healthcare campus designs.

The health campus will encompass property owned by the Sisters of Charity at East 22nd Street and serve as a catalyst for revitalization in the surrounding area. St. Vincent Charity Medical Center will be an anchor institution and partner in what will be known as the St. Vincent Charity Health Campus.

Before construction gets underway, Sisters of Charity Foundation and MASS Design Group will host community engagement session to determine the social and economic needs on the campus. MASS Design Group will conduct research and dialogue with residents and institutions in the Central neighborhood and greater Cleveland. Krey says one of those organizations will be Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.

<span class="content-image-text">Group pic of Champions of Central awardees, from Promise/SOCF</span>Group pic of Champions of Central awardees, from Promise/SOCF"We need community engagement to really understand the wants of the community and get the pulse of the community as well,” says Krey. The planning and engagement process is expected to last through the end of this year.

The two organizations will then connect with project partners, internal stakeholders, local businesses, anchor institutions, and community leaders to address those community-identified needs.

Depending on what is recommended by the residents, new services, programs, and partners will also be added to the existing services at St. Vincent Charity Medical Center’s main campus.

“The time is here to really think of the future of healthcare,” says Krey. “We’re not just recognizing the importance of health delivery, but also the social determinants of health.”

The whole mission is to use “active listening” in the neighborhood to determine what services need to be offered alongside traditional healthcare services, Krey says, to treat the whole person.

<span class="content-image-text">Sue at College Roundtable event talking to prospective students/Promise scholars</span>Sue at College Roundtable event talking to prospective students/Promise scholars“Healthcare services only attribute 20% to healthy outcomes,” she explains. “The other 80% cover the social disparities of health—the better your income, the better your education, the better your housing, the better your health. Healthcare is important, but it’s not enough. You need to look at the factors.”

Krey points to the fact that Ohio ranks 47th in the country for health values, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, and a 2019 collaborative Cuyahoga County health needs assessment listed structural racism and trust in doctors as two of the top issues around community healthcare.

She says she hopes this initiative for a whole health campus will start to change these disparities in Cleveland.

“It’s a new way to think about healthcare,” says Krey. “To lead a healthy life is more than just healthcare—it’s the whole sense of a healthy environment.”

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.