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Health & Medicine in the Chicago Tribune: Health in Chicago is anything but equal

A letter to the editor by Health & Medicine’s Executive Director Margie Schaps and Director of Health Equity Wesley Epplin was published in the Chicago Tribune on May 19. Health & Medicine letter was submitted in response to a recent editorial in the paper about plans to develop former rail yard at Clark Street and Roosevelt Road and it’s potential to revitalize Chicago neighborhoods.

We applaud the Tribune Editorial Board’s “The beauty of a clean slate” for calling on the city to make a critical and long-overdue investment in the vitality of many Chicago neighborhoods.

Beyond promoting economic vibrancy, this sort of investment supports healthier communities. Chicago has persistent and severe health inequities, which are avoidable, remediable and unfair systemic differences in health that harm disadvantaged populations. Economic and power inequities as well as structural racism are among the determinants of health inequities. Economic vitality is so important that it’s emphasized in Healthy Chicago 2.0, a major recent initiative developed by the Chicago Department of Public Health. The plan’s goal of achieving health equity requires equitable community development in historically disinvested parts of Chicago — primarily communities of color on the West and South sides.

As neighborhoods are developed and revitalized through economic and community development — something that we need far more of in impoverished communities — we must ensure that those who can benefit the most are not priced out and pushed out of their communities.

Implementing this ambitious development plan and Healthy Chicago 2.0 relies in part on our mayor and City Council heeding the urgent need for equitable and inclusive community development in Chicago. Elected officials can start by asking these crucial questions: Who does Chicago belong to? Who are these new developments for? How can we ensure equity and inclusion for all?