MetroHealth, Partners Address Digital Divide in Clark-Fulton
Research tells us that about 80% of a person’s health depends on factors beyond medical care. One of those factors is access to reliable internet. Here’s how the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ and others in the community are helping bridge the digital divide.
In the early 1990s, Gary Murphy suffered a devastating head injury that left his brain swollen and kept him in the hospital for four months.
He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t live life as it was meant to be lived.
Thirty years later – standing tall, and in a booming baritone – Murphy recited a simple poem he wrote to express his gratitude to MetroHealth.
“When the odds are all against you and there’s nowhere else to turn, there’s help around the corner – of this I’m sure you’ll learn,” Murphy belted.
But for Murphy and so many others, the “help” he speaks of is not just world-class medical care.
Murphy recited the poem at a recent graduation ceremony for a digital literacy program supported by MetroHealth’s Institute for H.O.P.E.™ at Scranton Castle, a Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority housing complex near the health system’s main campus. The 66-year-old is among 350 households in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood to receive subsidized internet through an innovative partnership between MetroHealth, AT&T, DigitalC and Dollar Bank.
Digital connectivity plays a major role in an individual’s ability to succeed. A reliable internet connection is necessary to access social service resources, health care portals, online coursework and job applications.
“No one wants to feel alone in their lives,” Murphy said about the value of his digital literacy training and web connectivity. “When you have the ability to reach out to others, that enables them to feel better about themselves.”
MetroHealth President and CEO Dr. Akram Boutros made a bold commitment to address the digital divide in Clark-Fulton in 2019 – well before the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the digital disparities in Greater Cleveland. At the time, Dr. Boutros said, “With internet access, patients can see their doctors without leaving home, get prescriptions filled, schedule tests and share health information so caregivers can address issues before they become critical – and expensive – emergencies.”
As of Spring 2021, the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ had screened nearly 26,000 individuals for digital connectivity – more than 700 of which reported they had limited or no access to reliable internet. Results of the screenings revealed that those without internet connectivity were more likely to experience financial strain, social isolation and transportation challenges.
“This work has always been important, but the pandemic only added to the urgency of ensuring our community has access to reliable internet,” said Susan Fuehrer, President, Institute for H.O.P.E.™ “The digital divide is a community-wide challenge that requires community-wide solutions. The only way we can build a healthier Cleveland is through teamwork and collaboration. Our work with DigitalC is one way we’re doing that.”
To view the latest quarterly report from the Institute for H.O.P.E., which includes this story and its latest social determinant of health screening data, click here. For more information about the Institute, visit www.metrohealth.org/hope.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.