SPRINGDALE, Ohio — For health commissioner Matt Clayton, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a health disparity in his community that he knows has existed for decades.
It's why he's taken a proactive approach and opened his health and vaccination clinics to nearby residents who might not live within city limits.
"Among our African-American population, we have a higher-than-normal socioeconomic status, but we have a higher rate of preventable disease," Clayton told WCPO.
That means, Clayton said, Black people are dying younger than white people.
According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, Ohio ranked ninth in 2019 for deaths per capita so far in the 21st century. Other research from the Ohio Alliance for Population Health found dramatic differences in the average age of death across communities in Hamilton County -- some spanning more than three decades.
Springdale's own health data shows a 10-year difference in the average lifespan of the city's white and Black residents.
The coronavirus pandemic has cast a new spotlight on the issue, particularly in how people of various races can access a vaccine.
"These are challenges that people face who are African-American that I never faced as a white person because I had white privilege even when I grew up poor," Clayton said.
WCPO first met Ronald William at a Springdale clinic last month. He was there to get vaccinated, as part of Clayton's efforts to open the city's clinics to residents of nearby cities who were having trouble accessing a vaccine appointment.
"If you're not vigilant, if you don't do your research, you're not advocating for yourself, you're subject to be victim to some kind of biased treatment," he said.
"We're still very concerned about getting African-American people to Springdale to get their vaccine," Clayton said. "And also answering their questions, making sure that everyone knows this vaccine is safe, that it's effective, and that they should get the shot as soon as possible."
It's a focus of hospital systems, too.
"We're not trying to profit as a nonprofit by watching people get sick and letting them come in for assistance," said Odesa Stapleton, chief diversity officer with Bon Secours Mercy Health in Bond Hill.
The hospital has invested millions in housing and other factors that can affect health outcomes.