CLEVELAND -- Cuyahoga County officially launched its County Health Alliance with 21 cities.
The goal of the project is to control or eradicate chronic health diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity among county residents.
Of Ohio's 88 counties, Cuyahoga ranks 65th, indicating that many residents are unhealthy.
The project allows for cities to collaborate on wellness initiatives under one umbrella instead of everyone trying to do their own program.
Several local health agencies, including the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Sisters of Charity Health System and MetroHealth Medical Center, are also providing tools and guidance for cities to start programs to initially help employees and then expand to their communities.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, diseases such as heart disease, cancer, lower respiratory disease, stroke and Alzheimer's are the leading causes of death in the county.
Twenty percent of Cuyahoga County residents smoke, which contributes to many of the health problems listed. Anti-smoking and quitting campaigns may help curb those numbers.
"You can change the culture of your own organization, for example, by not allowing the Police Chief to bring donuts to the staff meeting anymore," says Bay Village Mayor Deborah Sutherland.
The program will initially reach about 500,000 city and county employees in the participating partners.