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CDC grant focused on ‘social determinants of health’
(Illustration: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have awarded McKeesport $125,000 to work with UPMC and a broad coalition of community groups to develop a city-wide strategy to address chronic diseases, food security and access to health care.
The grant, announced Monday by city officials and UPMC, comes through the CDC’s Closing the Gap with Social Determinants of Health Accelerator Plans grant program.
According to the CDC, McKeesport is one of only approximately 15 cities nationwide to be awarded a grant from the program in this round of funding. In total, five programs in Pennsylvania have been funded since the program’s inception.
City and UPMC officials said the planning grant will be used to develop a connected and sustainable network of community organizations that can bring forth the voices and needs of the McKeesport community; plans to create more convenient, accessible and equitable access to care; and a better understanding of how diverse populations want to receive care.
A similar program called “Clairton Cares,” operated by Mon Valley Initiative and funded through the Jefferson Regional Foundation, has been praised for its positive impact on that community.
“Improving the health of McKeesport residents is dependent on the many organizations that serve our community coming together to develop a coordinated approach to addressing the most significant challenges impacting our health,” McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko said. “This initiative is yet another effort in which collaboration can — and will — wholistically address the needs of our community.”
Cherepko said the city expects to engage doctors, nurses, mental-health practitioners, religious organizations and the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank in the planning stage.
The CDC funding will allow local leaders to develop a comprehensive plan to align existing programs, expand programs and engage new partners, he said in a prepared release, while also engaging directly with community members to make the largest impact.
In addition to UPMC McKeesport hospital and UPMC Health Plan, organizations that are being approached to become a part of the planning team include UPMC Western Behavioral Health at Mon Yough, UPMC Latterman Family Health Center, LaRosa Youth Club, Allegheny County Area Agency on Aging, McKeesport Area Shared Ministry, Penn State Greater Allegheny, Allegheny County Health Department, NAACP McKeesport Unit, Zion Baptist Church, and the Boys & Girls Club of Western Pennsylvania.
Each of those organizations has been identified because of their active work in addressing the social determinants of health, or SDOH, and their shared commitment to help transform the health of the community.
The social determinants have health have been defined by the World Health Organization as “non-medical factors that influence health outcomes.” According to WHO, people who lack financial security, housing, healthy food and meaningful jobs have worse health outcomes.
In a 2008 study titled “Closing the Gap in a Generation,” WHO reported that “In countries, at all levels of income, health and illness follow a social gradient: the lower the socioeconomic position, the worse the health.”
Non-health care factors that can influence a person’s life-long health include income, education, unemployment and job insecurity, poor working conditions, food insecurity, housing, the environment, early childhood development, and inclusion and non-discrimination, WHO said.
“Funding to address chronic disease and social determinants of health in communities like McKeesport is invaluable,” State Sen. Jim Brewster said in a prepared release. “This is an excellent opportunity for the City of McKeesport and the numerous community organizations to collaborate and make a significant impact on the health of McKeesport residents.”
More than 60 organizations are already working to address various social determinants of health and population health challenges in McKeesport. A shared understanding of and language reflecting what social determinants are, how they influence health outcomes, and how effective community collaboration might impact health outcomes is required.
“With the numerous resources that UPMC has to offer in the McKeesport community, we are thrilled about the opportunity to partner closely with the city of McKeesport and other community organizations to develop a comprehensive plan to address chronic disease and social determinates of health,” said Dr. Tracey Conti, who chairs the Department of Family Medicine at UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to take a step back and look at how resources can be pooled to make the largest impact in the health of the community,” Conti said.
Originally published October 24, 2023.