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"Health Matters Here" Community Day
"Health Matters Here" Community DayHIP-Cuyahoga is making great strides in its goal to improve healthy eating, active living, and chronic disease management in key neighborhoods throughout the cities of Cleveland and East Cleveland. To better connect residents with resources that help combat health inequity, HIP-Cuyahoga held a Community Day on September 26th at Shaw High School in East Cleveland. Nearly 100 people from all over Cleveland attended. Among the sixteen community groups represented at the event were Cuyahoga County Board of Health-Creating Healthy Communities, Fairhill Partners, Coit Road Farmers Market, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District, Better Health Partnership, and several health providers serving the east side of Cleveland.

A key part of HIP-Cuyahoga’s work around healthy eating and active living will be teams of Community Health Ambassadors. The first cohort of Community Ambassadors were the featured presenters during the program portion of the Community Day event. Over the past ten weeks, these residents from East Cleveland, South Collinwood, and Glenville worked with REACH Community Fellows learning about how place affects health, health equity, how to create a social movement, branding their movement, conflict management, emotional intelligence, and team building.
 The Community Health Ambassadors preparing for their presentation.
The Community Health Ambassadors form a "Community Chain"
Ephraim and Anju Abdulla, and Elizabeth Tilley

One Community Health Ambassador, Mark McClain, suffered a severe stroke several years ago. He worked with Master Wei, a master of Chinese internal martial arts, during his recovery. Master Wei led the group in a Qigong exercise, which helps manage stress, rid the body of impurities, and heal aches and pains.

The Community Health Ambassadors also put together a presentation for their fellow community residents, HIP-Cuyahoga consortium members, and local organizations. For the first part of their program, one representative from each of the three neighborhoods shared with the audience assets, opportunities, and challenges within their communities. The representatives were Ephraim Abdullah, East Cleveland; GiGi Elder, South Collinwood; and Nakia Smith, Glenville.

One of the most powerful portions of the day was when the Ambassadors gathered to form a "Community Chain," representing how each of us is linked by our experiences, actions, and most of all, our voices. The powerful messages the Ambassadors shared included their personal health-related battles, disparities within the community, and their plans to create change in their neighborhood.

Leonard Scott, a Community Health Ambassador from East Cleveland, sums up the Community Day and the larger purpose of HIP-Cuyahoga this way: “It is very difficult in East Cleveland and other parts of Cleveland, to get fresh produce, to eat healthy, to eat alternative foods. . . It is very difficult to get Save-A-Lot and Deal$ and the rest of these stores they place in our community to carry these kinds of food. People are hurried into these communities and given certain kind of foods and a certain kind of environment in terms of health. I am involved in all of this to bring egalitarianism and improve social justice as well as psychological justice. If you don’t eat well then you are not going to think well. If you do not live in a good environment then you are not psychologically healthy and everything else is going to go. So that is why I am involved in this. We need to stop structural racism because it affects everything in our environment from the top down and it not only affects African-Americans but it affects everyone else too."