BGSU joins national social health partnership 

Root-Cause-Group
The BGSU contingent at the National Summit on the Social Determinants of Health in New Orleans

By Alex Sciranka

Last fall, a group of talented young leaders embarked from Bowling Green State University to New Orleans. Their mission: tackling health inequities.  

Organized by the Center for Community and Civic Engagement, BGSU students had the opportunity to attend the third annual National Summit on the Social Determinants of Health. The conference was sponsored by the Root Cause Coalition, which seeks to engage projects and best practices that tackle the social barriers affecting community access to health care.

Established in 2015, the coalition is a nonprofit, member-driven collaborative of health care providers, hospital associations and academic research and policy experts. The organization of 61 partners works together to bridge the gap of health inequities, creating a society in which a person’s location has no effect on their eligibility to be healthy.

The conference launched the University’s first step as an inaugural partner with the Root Cause Coalition. While the coalition comprises different sections and centers of national university partners, BGSU as an institution is the first, full university partner to join.  

What makes the coalition unique is its membership. National and local organizations work together through Root Cause to tackle health inequities from multiple angles of the issue.

Health equity means ensuring that all communities have access to the health care they require. Root Cause coordinates research and implementation of practices that resolve the root causes of avoidable, chronic health conditions.

“Social factors determining health are not talked about enough,” said Lauren Ridgeway, a senior majoring in applied health science with a specialization in health care administration. “I find myself utilizing the knowledge from the Root Cause summit to better inform class discussions here at BGSU.”  

Ridgeway was one of five BGSU students among a handful selected nationally to participate in the weekend conference of seminars, workshops and Q&A sessions with leading health care professionals.

The expansive reach of this national coalition means that a greater collective impact will be made on research, education and advocacy regarding social determinants of ill health.

In addition to the national impact, partnering with the Root Cause Coalition opens the door to more professional development opportunities for students and faculty.  

“It was really exciting to meet new people and network with practitioners, researchers and community leaders who are working to improve community health,” said Carillon Young, a McNair Scholar and senior majoring in communication and media production. “I was definitely feeling very proud that our school was represented well.”

The core values of the Root Cause Coalition involve community engagement, collaboration, innovative solutions and learning from communities, values that closely mirror the commitments BGSU strives for every day.

The social benefit of the partnership is not the only way students such as Ridgeway benefit from participating in these kinds of opportunities.  

“I believe that attending the conference has given me confidence and marketable experience to compete with others in health care,” Ridgeway said. “I look forward to using what I learned at the conference in my professional career.”

BGSU is very familiar with working to enhance to public well-being. Cultivating partnerships like that with the Root Cause Coalition provides opportunities for students to fully engage with the public and develop their skills to further create change.

“I am proud to see BGSU take this step to partner with such a reputable organization working to effect change in the health care industry,” Ridgeway said.