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Akron Children's Hospital aims to support minority communities with new resource centers

Akron Children's Hospital's Unity Center and Family Resource Center
Ted Stevens
Akron Children's Hospital
Akron Children's Hospital's new Unity Center and Family Resource Center serve as places for minority groups and other community members to gather and access resources.

Akron Children's Hospital opened its new Unity Center and Family Resource Center April 11 to address health inequities for minority patients while increasing access to various community resources.

The Unity Center furthers the hospital's focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, according to Bernett L. Williams, chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and vice president of external initiatives at Akron Children's. She said it does so by providing training and professional development for staff. The center also organizes cultural events for employees and patient families and has a meeting space for employee resource groups, including those for racial minorities, veterans and the LGBTQ+ community.

The overall goal for the space is to build racial and cultural understanding among staff, volunteers and patients, Williams said.

"We recognize that a good amount of this work is a journey for many of us, and so, as a part of that journey, we offer things like our training in diversity, equity in education, and our information that we share on health disparities and why it matters, and what we should be doing to address those health disparities," Williams noted.

The center also serves as a place for minority groups and other community members to gather, she said.

"It's sort of a safe space, a welcoming environment for employees, for our volunteers, for our patient families, where they can come and receive information on diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging," Williams said.

Northeast Ohio artist Van Taylor Monroe stands in front of a mural inside the Unity Center at Akron Children's Hospital.
Akron Children's Hospital
Northeast Ohio artist Van Taylor Monroe was commissioned to create a mural in the Unity Center at Akron Children's Hospital. The center also features a unity wall, which displays the word "unity" in several languages.

They also aim to build awareness among health providers and create a sense of comfort for minority members of the community.

“As we shine light on some of these disparities, we not only know how to better serve them and address some of the challenges that they may have, but also they might be more comfortable in accessing our services,” Williams said.

Akron Children's also has a new Family Resource Center that provides community members with a centralized location to access various public services. The center includes patient relations staff, translation and language access services, and provides computer access and a business center. Visitors can also connect with staff and resources from the Summit County Department of Job and Family Services, United Way of Summit & Medina and the Summit County Public Health Women, Infants and Children Clinic.

The idea is to help patients access important services without having to drive to multiple locations to do so, Williams said. This is especially important for lower income patients who experience transportation barriers.

Patients "don't have to take another bus," Williams said. "If they have multiple children, they don't have to worry about getting a sitter. They're already on our campus. They can have their needs met while they're there.”

Difficulty accessing these services is one of the social determinants that lead to poor health outcomes, Williams said, adding that it can create physical and mental wellness obstacles.

"We're just trying to determine as many of those services as possible that we can bring on site to make it easier for patient families," Williams said.

The centers, which are located on the third floor of the hospital, are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Stephen Langel is a health reporter with Ideastream Public Media's engaged journalism team.