Akron and Summit County have higher infant mortality rates than the national average, and African-American babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies.
To help curb this health disparity, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan has appointed Tamiyka Rose to fill the newly created position of Health Equity Ambassador for the city of Akron. In this role, Rose will advise Horrigan and Dr. Terry Albanese, assistant to the Mayor for Education, Health and Families, on policy initiatives, and lead Akron’s efforts to decrease racial and ethnic disparities, particularly in premature births and infant mortality.
“We cannot and will not accept health disparities in our community,” Horrigan said. “Every Akron resident deserves an equal chance at a long, healthy and successful life – and nothing is more important than ensuring that our children are provided with every opportunity to thrive, regardless of race, economic status or zip code. Tamiyka’s significant experience and insight will be invaluable in helping us tackle these issues as a community.”
Rose, a former vice president of Government Relations for The MetroHealth System, will join Albanese, who collaborates across sectors with community partners, providers and public health organizations on issues affecting residents.
Infant mortality is defined as the death of a live-born baby before his or her first birthday. It is calculated as the number of such deaths per 1,000 live births. In 2015, the national infant mortality rate was 5.8 percent; Ohio’s infant mortality rate was 7.2 percent; and Summit County’s average was 7.4 percent.
To begin the conversation and formulate actions steps to address these racial disparities, Horrigan held the city’s Inaugural Health Equity Summit last fall. As a result of the conversations and recommendations of the Summit, at his 2017 State of the City Address, Horrigan announced the creation of a Health Equity Ambassador position to coordinate the efforts already in place focusing on reducing racial disparities in premature birth and infant mortality. Akron Children’s Hospital, Summa Health, and Cleveland Clinic Akron General each committed to help partially fund the position for two years.
“I am honored that Mayor Horrigan and the hospital systems chose me to lead the efforts in this very important initiative,” Rose said. “I spent the first 365 days of my life on Montgomery Street in Akron. I believe that every child should have the same opportunities that I had, and that starts by making it to day 366 and beyond. In Akron, we will not allow a person’s race or zip code to determine their life expectancy.”