Cleveland, OH,
11:51 AM

Spreading Hope One Call at a Time

A casual phone call can do more than lift people’s spirits. It can improve their health, too.

That’s the basis of Calls for HOPE, an innovative pilot program at MetroHealth designed to combat the intense social isolation experienced by many of our patients, especially as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit in-person interactions. The program – made possible with support from Cigna and Baldwin Wallace University’s Jacket Philanthropy Program – pairs trained MetroHealth volunteers with patients for weekly chats over the phone.

Think small talk with a purpose – an opportunity for human connection that otherwise wouldn’t be available. Conversation might focus on the weather, hobbies, plans for the week, recipes – anything that might get the patient talking.

“One of our core beliefs at the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ is that good health depends on far more than medical care,” said Karen Cook, Director, Healthy Families & Thriving Communities, Institute for H.O.P.E.™ “Human connection – kindness, compassion and concern – has healing benefits. Calls for HOPE is just one of the strategies we believe can buffer some of the loneliness and isolation experienced by our patients.”Xiomara Merced

More than 31% of MetroHealth patients screened for social needs are at high risk for social isolation. And loneliness, of course, is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide. Also, research shows that loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with an almost four-fold increased risk of death and higher rates of hospitalization.

Patient participants include individuals managing chronic illness or injury, those living alone and individuals experiencing life changes that present new challenges for socializing. Volunteers are trained to keep things positive, report concerning behavior and steer the patient toward other healthy outlets for socialization.

One of those volunteers is Xiomara Merced, a MetroHealth employee who jumped at the opportunity to give back at a time when volunteer opportunities had been limited because of the pandemic.

“I always try to think about my family when making these calls,” she said. “Interaction is so important in our lives, and so many are lacking it right now because of the pandemic.”

Currently, the Calls for HOPE program involves a small group of patients and volunteers, but plans are underway to expand its reach to offer more patients a needed dose of human connection.

If you are interested in volunteering with future phases of Calls for HOPE, please email with your contact information. Please put volunteer in the subject line.

About The MetroHealth System

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