The Innovation Mission: Dabney Conwell

The Cleveland Leadership Center was proud to partner with the Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland on The Innovation Mission, a fellowship that supports local experts with groundbreaking ideas to break the cycle of poverty. Since Fall 2017, five fellows have developed their ideas and created programs to implement in Cleveland and potentially scale nationwide. Each day this week we will be sharing their stories.

Dabney Conwell
Vice President, Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging
Executive Director, Rose Centers for Aging Well

Dabney wants to help more low-income seniors facing food insecurity, social isolation, and frequent hospital stays find the support they need through her project, Nutrition Solution.

Dabney’s research shows that more than half of Cleveland’s older adults are poor, living right at or below the minimum income to be self-sufficient. These individuals are more likely to experience chronic illnesses, like diabetes and heart disease, which have serious consequences and can land them in the hospital.

“Other health issues and low physical activity also contribute to hospital admission, and things aren’t much better when it’s time to go home from a stay,” she says. “What about those individuals who go home to their lower socio-economic community alone?”

The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law reports that food is a core component of preventing and recovering from hospital stays. Some programs to incorporate nutrition into medical care have been implemented in small pockets around the country, but many are not sufficient for older recuperating adults who lack the physical capacity to prepare food and don’t have a caregiver.

If an older adult is frail or struggling physically, that may be a barrier to the ability to prepare food, especially if that preparation requires the functional abilities to operate an appliance like a microwave or toaster oven.

“We know nutrition and hydration are keys to a healthy life, so why don’t we prescribe food like we prescribe medicine?” Dabney asks. “What if health care professionals could prescribe hot meals that are customized to the specific diets that many chronic illnesses require?”

Dabney also points out that social isolation can have an impact similar to smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Nutrition Solution hopes to connect community volunteers with these older adults to alleviate some of the isolation.

“I see the potential for this innovation to decrease isolation, provide food needed for restorative health, and reduce incidents of hospital re-admissions – and each of these factors can mean an improved quality of life for older adults,” Dabney says.

Celebrate their success

The Sisters of Charity Foundation will celebrate the conclusion of The Innovation Mission with A Celebration of Innovation. All are welcome to attend this free event but registration is required.

June 12, 2019  |  4:30 – 7:00 p.m.  |  Global Center for Health Innovation.

Learn more + register >