Dr. Stephanie Cooper-Lewter: The Power of Relationships

Note: This blog post is a companion piece to Care Ring’s “Seeking the Heart” podcast series in which we talk with leaders from across the region about their ideas and insights on how we can create a better health care system for ALL. To listen to “Seeking the Heart,” simply click here, or search for “Seeking the Heart” on your favorite podcast platform.

A social worker by training and experience, Stephanie Cooper-Lewter, Ph.D., serves as executive director of Leading on Opportunity. More than just providing a new program or simply collecting promising policy interventions, Leading on Opportunity is a movement. Leading on Opportunity inspires and leads us to become a place where every child has an equal chance to achieve social and economic success.

Dr. Raj Chetty and colleagues at Harvard released a study a few years ago revealing Charlotte is one of the most difficult places in the country to advance up the economic mobility ladder. If you are born poor in Charlotte you are very likely to remain poor in Charlotte.

A diverse task force of community leaders assembled and lead by Foundation For The Carolinas took the time to understand why Charlotte scored so poorly, which lead to a groundbreaking report on what to do about it. The report of this task force suggested more than 20 strategies and nearly 100 specific recommendations to address and improve economic mobility in Charlotte.

And Dr. Cooper-Lewter was tasked with leading this critically-important effort.

In less than two years, she has put together a team and a strategy to realize the promise of a Charlotte region where every child can thrive. By increasing access to early care, advancing college and career readiness, and promoting child and family stability -- all while taking into account the impacts of segregation and access to social capital -- our region under Stephanie’s stewardship at Leading on Opportunity has a realistic blueprint to create a better future for all.

As we strive to develop a better system of health care in the Greater Charlotte region, what can we learn from the early success of Leading on Opportunity? Stephanie offers a number of insights in this podcast, including the need to take a long-range perspective in making system improvements, and the importance of honestly and directly confronting racial and economic segregation and its impact on nearly everything in Charlotte, from education to housing, transportation and certainly health care.

Stephanie is ultimately optimistic about Charlotte being able to address our system challenges head on and forge a path that creates a better system for all of our residents.

So much of our future success will be contingent on building authentic, long-term relationships with all of our neighbors. For Stephanie, the heart of community health is really about the heart of connection and creating a community where all of our neighbors feel a genuine sense of belonging.

Author: Donald K. Jonas, Ph.D.
Executive Director, Care Ring

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