Renewed Focus On Community Development And Health Essential To Lakewood’s Future
It is my belief that a renewed focus on community development and health in Lakewood is integral to our future.
As a public health professional working with communities all across northeast Ohio, it is readily apparent that public health intersects all aspects of public life. The key to our resilience in Lakewood - our ability to effectively meet future challenges as a community - hinges upon community health and development. Community development, and policies and processes that support it in all its facets, is imperative in determining how we address emerging issues.
As part of the Lakewood Wellness Foundation Planning Task Force, we discussed at length the change in Lakewood’s health landscape and the opportunities for health improvement through community development. When considering the challenges that are impacting health and information access for Lakewood’s diverse array of residents, what is clear is that more ought to be done to identify, organize, guide and strengthen community networks. This is something that will be the central focus for me as your council person in Ward 1.
Organizing communities around information access, shared goals, and facilitating a dialogue that transcends streets and neighborhoods will allow our Ward to collaboratively come to solutions to emergent community issues. I believe it is important for council to partner with residents, as well as businesses, healthcare providers, and professionals to constitute a network that is well informed, active and knowledgeable about the challenges and opportunities for growth in our community.
Based on data gathered from a variety of sources, including several community-based needs assessments, these are some of the challenges residents in Ward 1 currently face:
- In Ward 1, senior citizens and the disabled comprise over 14% of our population.
- Over 1,400 households in Ward 1 have children under the age of 18 receiving SNAP benefits.
- 1,000 residents are estimated to be uninsured.
Better outcomes to public health start with community development in our neighborhoods. Public education, resident engagement, and collaborative community-building, and connection to public services are the essential foundation to better outcomes across the spectrum. Communities that are actively connected are healthier, safer, and more resilient.
I propose a renewed focus on community development that is inclusive of partnerships rooted in block club outreach. This renewed focus on community development and resident-council partnership will allow our citizens to become better informed about community issues and work with council to develop smart, informed policies that effectively address challenges.
I also believe our city will need to embrace community health by meeting residents where they are in age, socioeconomic status and accessibility by looking at opportunities to secure and expand funding for health and human services. Lakewood’s population is aging, and with it come public health challenges that include increased chances of poverty, adverse mental health, chronic disease, disability accessibility, transportation availability, and access to critical care. The importance of taking action on establishing more opportunities for transitional and affordable housing in Lakewood will also be a critical area of focus to meet the needs of aging residents. With regard to our youngest residents, 47% of children in Lakewood Public Schools qualify for free and reduced lunch. Nutrition is essential to early brain development and I believe it is important to work to assess and address food insecurity among our youth to help support them and set them to a healthy path to their realize their greatest potential.
Many of these challenges will require careful consideration, the establishment and expansion of partnerships across sectors, and the leadership of our elected representatives to address. What is clear is that local government has a responsibility to strive to be as informed and inclusive as possible and work with residents on solutions that make sense for this community. We must also make decisions today that are forward thinking and are rooted in securing and supporting our community tomorrow.
Laura Rodriguez-Carbone is a candidate for Lakewood City Council, Ward 1. She is a community advocate with over 17 years of experience in the federal and non-profit sectors in fund development and cultivating and expanding multi-sectoral partnerships. She continues to give of her time through service on several public, non-profit, and national boards. Laura currently works in Community Outreach for Lifebanc, an organ procurement organization that facilitates transplants in over 80 hospitals in 20 counties in Northeast Ohio. Community outreach and education programs about organ, eye and tissue donation benefit 4.3 million Ohioans. Laura works primarly with under-resourced, multicultural and faith-based communities all across northeast Ohio.
Laura and her husband Christopher own and live in their home on McKinley Avenue with their five cats, Oliver, Ozzy, Oswald, Odin and Prue.