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Welcome to the blog for Health & Medicine. Founded in 1981, we're a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates as an independent, freestanding center driven by a singular mission: formulating health policy, advocacy and health systems to enhance the health of the public.


Oct 05, 2018 Written By: Wesley Epplin

We Celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day—and Call for Recognition and Rectification of Historical Injustices

On Monday, October 8, 2018, Health & Medicine will, for the first time, be closed in observance of Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We invite you to join us in honoring and celebrating Native Peoples, Indigenous peoples, and First Nations of the Americas.

The Indigenous Peoples of the Americas have rich, beautiful cultures and continue to show strength and build movements for equity in the face of adversity and injustice. At the same time, Indigenous Peoples have experienced thefts of their lands, traditional foods, languages, rights, property, artifacts, bodies, and lives since the arrival of settlers from Europe. Again and again, promises were not kept, treaties have been violated, and violence from both vigilantes and the state has been exacted on Indigenous Peoples. The struggle for justice continues today, and we celebrate and lend our voice in support of our Native sisters, brothers, and family members seeking freedom, sovereignty, and justice.

As part of our health equity praxis, we also take this opportunity to protest and call for an end to the annual holiday celebration of Christopher Columbus. The arrival, actions, greed, and racist white supremacist ideology of Columbus and other colonizers contributed to the subjugation, violence, dispossession of land, enslavement, weaponization of disease pathogens, and genocide of Native Peoples which continues to scar and harm our world and people today. Perpetrators of injustice do not deserve celebration.

These words are written in Chicago, Illinois, located on lands taken both by force and the threat of force from the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Tribes. The recognition of this and the details of the broader history of these and other tribes is essential to understanding public health and advancing health equity. While the many historical details—important as they are—are beyond the scope of this writing, Health & Medicine challenges our community of practice and broader society to become students of this history. Of course, recognizing history is just a start.

Health & Medicine utilizes the definition of health equity developed by Dr. Camara P. Jones:
Health equity is a process of assurance of the conditions for optimal health for all people. Achieving health equity requires at least three things: 1) Valuing all individuals and populations equally; 2) Recognizing and rectifying historical injustices; and 3) Providing resources according to need. Health inequities will be eliminated when health equity is achieved.

This definition of health equity raises up the need to value all individuals and populations equally. Also, it challenges us to recognize and correct the sanitized and false histories that are often taught to schoolchildren and in public discourse about the United States, its founding, and the activities and warped ideologies of so-called “discoverers.” We must acknowledge the reality that contrary to its stated values for liberty and justice, the U.S. was founded with genocide and slavery as major parts of the political economy—atrocious and unjust actions that contributed to health inequities and injustices that are still with us today. More difficult than this recognition is the unfinished work of rectifying these and other historical injustices.

History is ongoing. Indigenous People are with us today, in spite of injustice and invisibilization. Native People are often at the forefront of movements against injustice and fighting for their very survival and wellbeing.

We see you.

Whether leading the struggle to protect water, such as the Standing Rock encampment, fighting for climate justice, or against police killings—from which Native Americans suffer the highest rate—Indigenous People are among the leaders of movements for justice for all. We must all recognize the maxim that all of our freedom and wellbeing is tied up with one another’s and find common cause.

Holidays provide opportunities to celebrate people, raise up what is relevant, to highlight important narratives, and to both revisit and learn history. Of course, learning and recognizing history is just a beginning—the need to repair and redress deep injustice and violence that dates back before the founding of the U.S. and throughout its history is a much more difficult task. We must get to it each day.

Health equity can be understood as a struggle for just circumstances for all people. Today, on Indigenous Peoples Day we remember and pause to learn history, and we both raise up and celebrate Indigenous Peoples. Health & Medicine reaffirms our call for justice and invite our partners, other organizations, and our broader governments to join us in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day and in redoubling our efforts for equity.

Aug 30, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Action Opportunities to Influence Chicago’s Five-Year Housing Plan

On August 27, 120 people attended the Chicago Forum for Justice in Health Policy: Housing Justice for Health Equity. We thank our co-sponsor, the Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing, and are glad this was the seventh forum organized by members of the Chicago Housing Justice League, of which Health & Medicine is a proud member.

The forum focused on advancing affordable, healthy, safe, and accessible housing to promote health equity and to consider how Chicago’s Five-Year Housing Plan can help do this. The forum explored how to change structural determinants of health inequities, including policies, governance, and systems that exacerbate housing and health inequities—such that these can instead advancing equity in housing and health. In sum, the fight for equitable housing is also a fight for health equity.

Here are a few action opportunities to influence Chicago’s Five-Year Housing Plan to advance housing justice and health equity:
  • Submit comments and suggestions for the City’s Five-Year Housing Plan 2019-2023 here. This idea portal is open from August 20th to September 9th.
  • Review the Chicago Housing Justice League’s principles and recommendations to the City’s Department of Planning and Development for the plan and consider submitting some or all of these recommendations to the idea portal.  
  • Attend and consider providing testimony at the public hearing on Thursday, September 13th, from 6:00—7:30 PM in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium of the Harold Washington Library, 400 S State Street. The hearing will be hosted by Alderman Joe Moore and Deputy Managing Commissioner for Housing Anthony Simpkins, and a presentation will be made.
    • If you plan to provide testimony, we recommend arriving significantly before the hearing starts, to be able to add your name to the list. For more information about the hearing, call (312) 744-4190.
Presentation slides and handouts are now uploaded to the event page. Video recording will be made available thanks to CAN TV and a link posted on the event page in the coming weeks.

Aug 29, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Meet our Staff: Thank you to our summer interns!

This summer, Health & Medicine was fortunate to have four interns--(from left to right) Julia Morrison, Jared Cruz, Courtney Severin, and Grace Lee--supporting our work across a range of project areas from our Schweitzer Fellowship to Chicago AHEC and our ACEs programming. Thanks to all our interns for their great work!

Jared Cruz is a high school student at George Westinghouse College Prep and a part of their CTE Medical Academy. She interned with Chicago AHEC through the One Summer Chicago Program.

What interested you in interning at Health & Medicine?
As someone who is interested in pursuing a career in health administration, I looked forward to interning at Health & Medicine because it focuses on health policy and promoting improvement in healthcare and would provide me with an opportunity to learn about the professions within this field. I am currently working on creating an operations manual for the IL AHEC team and composing descriptions for the Chicago AHEC general resources websites.

What sort of things do you like to do outside of school?
Outside of school I enjoy playing sports, such as badminton and tennis, and finding new music to listen to. I also enjoy exploring downtown with my siblings and swimming at the lake.

Any other exciting summer plans?
This summer I plan attending the summer festivals and concerts and volunteering at local centers for service learning hours.

Eunhye “Grace” Lee is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago in Medical Sociology. She provided support to our Chicago AHEC and Center for Public Health Equity the summer.

What interested you in interning at Health & Medicine?
I’m interested in health equity, social determinants of health, and quality of life. I found that Health & Medicine does a lot of awesome works that improve social and health equity, so I applied for an internship last year.
What are you looking forward to learning this summer? Is there any specific project you are working on?
I am looking forward to learning more health equity in Chicago and Illinois. Throughout my projects here, I realized that social injustice and racial injustice play a pivotal role in people’s health, in particular mental health. I really hope to address social problems and advocate for improved justice in the health care system. I am currently working on a data project for AHEC.

What sort of things do you like to do outside of school?
I love to travel, read a book, and watch interesting movies. Sometimes, I just stay at home and chill out during the weekend.

Any other exciting summer plans?
I plan to go back to my country, South Korea to see my parents and friends. I miss them a lot!

Julia Morrison is a rising junior at Tulane University majoring in Public Health and minoring in Management. She assisted with a range of projects this summer, in particular helping with our annual Schweitzer Program evaluation.

What interested you in interning at Health & Medicine?
As a Public Health major, I am very interested in healthcare policy, management, and administration. I was looking for an internship that would allow me to gain hands-on experience in this field.  

What are you looking forward to learning this summer? Is there any specific project you are working on?
My biggest accomplishment this summer is that I am writing my own policy brief about City-County health department mergers. I conducted qualitative interviews and have been analyzing the available literature to make a policy recommendation for the City of Chicago. I am so grateful for this wonderful opportunity to apply my skills from the classroom to the real world!

What sort of things do you like to do outside of school?
Outside of school I like to do yoga, cook, and spend time with my friends and family.

Any other exciting summer plans?
Later this summer I am heading to Copenhagen for a study abroad program. I will be studying the healthcare system in Denmark and learning about Public Health from a European perspective. I am so excited!

Courtney Severin is currently a medical student at Rush Medical College in Chicago. This summer she supported the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative conducting an environmental scan of strategies area hospitals are employing to become trauma-informed.

What interested you in interning at Health & Medicine?
While serving as a corps member with City Year, I mentored and tutored many students that had experienced ACEs themselves. Now as I am embarking on a career in healthcare, I want to equip myself with the knowledge of how I can have a positive impact on the health of my future patients through a health policy lens.

What are you looking forward to learning this summer?

I am excited to learn from all of the wonderful individuals in this office that are amazing powers of change. I am specifically working on a project that will be highlighting the journey that is being undertaken by the Hospital Collaborative to become trauma-informed institutions.

What sort of things do you like to do outside of school?
Outside of school? I don’t think a life outside of school exists for me anymore. Kidding, kidding. I am a huge proponent for self-care. I like to go to music shows, run outside, read in my hammock, and a year ago I picked up embroidering as a hobby!  

Any other exciting summer plans?
Rest and relaxation is exciting enough for me! Although, I am hoping to plan a trip out to Utah to go hiking with a friend!

Jul 25, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Meet our Staff: Yuliana López

Yuliana López

Yuliana joined Health & Medicine this summer as a Policy Research Analyst. She is a recent graduate of Middlebury College where she earned a degree in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry with a minor in Global Health.Yuliana’s achievements include being named a BOLD Women’s Leadership Network Scholar and a Hispanic Scholarship Fund Female Scholar of the Year Semifinalist. She is also a Gates Millennium Scholar and a recipient of a Posse Leadership Scholarship. 

What interested you in working at Health & Medicine?
The powerful and needed mission of Health & Medicine drove me to check out the work being done here. Growing up in the South Side of Chicago, I was quick to realize the structural barriers placed in front of my family and community that impeded us from safe and healthy lives. I have been searching for an organization that TRULY believes health care is a human right and challenges what is at the root of our fragmented public health state--structural racism. I came to Health & Medicine to learn from public health professionals and contribute to the push towards a healthy, equitable city. 

What sort of things do you like to do outside of work?

I am grateful to be in a space like Health & Medicine where my experience is valued as much as anything else. To be in a space where I get to think about health and challenge our city to move towards health equity is POWER; a great power that I hope to share and build with other young adults from underserved and marginalized communities in Chicago.

My greatest passion is mentoring and giving back to the community that raised me. It took a village, and I will work for that village. Whether it is translating/interpreting documents for families, talking about scholarships and college resources to students and parents, or discussing public health issues in our community, I am out in the community when I am not at work downtown.  

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be hard-working and determined like my dad. (That man really defined hard work from 9 PM to 9 AM working in a factory and working all morning as a automechanic.) I wanted to be compassionate and passionate like my mother. I wanted to be resilient like my community. I wanted to make my city proud. All of these statements still hold true to this day.
Jul 18, 2018 Written By: Rachel Lackland

Chicago AHEC Visits the Hill

My name is Rachel Lackland, the administrative assistant for Chicago Area Health Education Center (AHEC) and 2014 Chicago AHEC Internship Alumni Network member. Together with Health & Medicine’s Chicago AHEC team—Sharon Powell, Chicago AHEC Director and former Senior Policy Analyst, Tiffany Ford accompanied me as well—I had the opportunity to join ILAHEC at their NAO (National AHEC Organization) conference in Arlington, Virginia.
The NAO Conference happens every two years bringing together all the state AHECs
as one and to present on their centers’ current work. The AHEC program was developed by Congress in 1971 to recruit, train, and retain a health professions workforce committed to underserved populations. The AHEC program helps bring the resources of academic medicine to address local community health needs. The strength of the AHEC Network is its ability to creatively adapt national initiatives to help address local and regional healthcare issues.
Chicago AHEC presented on two panels: “Talk Data to Me: Increasing Effectiveness in Longitudinal Tracking through Unique Data Collection Platforms” and “Criminalization of People of Color as a Barrier to Diversifying the Health Workforce.” Both presentations were very effective and educational and led to robust questions from the audience.
Chicago AHEC showcased our research, personal experiences, and enthusiasm on why these two topics should be addressed in other states, schools, and communities. Many AHECs were very interested in our criminalization panel because so many people could relate to these hard times of violence in our Black and Brown communities and that society should start working together and protecting each other. So many eye opening stories were told and some suggestions were made to others on how to handle their own situations.
We also got the chance to speak to senators and legislators on Capitol Hill. I was very excited and nervous however all that went away and I was able to speak with ease and confidence! In addition to our panels, we learned how other AHECs are using AHEC Scholars—a new AHEC program—and how to integrate that initiative into the work we do every day. Overall, I am blessed to have the experience to be a part of this national conference and see firsthand what it truly means to be an AHEC!

The Chicago AHEC Team: (Left to right) Rachel Lackland, Sharon Powell, and Tiffany Ford
Jul 06, 2018 Written By: Chicago AHEC

Conclusion to Issue Brief Series: Criminalization of People of Color as a Barrier to Diversifying the Health Workforce

Chicago AHEC at Health & Medicine is pleased to share this issue brief series on Criminalization of People of Color as a Barrier to Diversifying the Health Workforce. Please read our introduction to the series below and our issue briefs. We will continue to update this page as briefs are released.
Brief Two: Arrests & Detainment

Over the last year, Chicago Area Health Education Center (Chicago AHEC) explored in detail the ways in which the Criminalization Pipeline – disproportionate minority contact, arrests and detainment, and sentencing and incarceration – serve as barriers to people of color navigating a Health Career Trajectory and ultimately impede the development of a diverse health workforce. Through this research and writing, it became clear that the effects of the criminalization of people of color can be felt by individuals and communities long before a criminal record is attained. Over-policing in black and brown communities and enforcement of zero tolerance policies in schools and communities combines with the stigma of arrests, convictions, and incarceration to create a reality in which a criminal record is only the final step in a pipeline of criminalization along the life course.

In 2016, roughly seven million Illinoisans had a criminal record. Despite the large amount of people with records, criminal records are still held as a barrier to entry to resources, such as higher education, loans, housing, and jobs. In a society in which a criminal record impedes access to basic resources, health workforce development organizations must critically analyze the toll that records have on the lives and career aspirations of those we seek to serve.

Once a person has a criminal record, the chances of that individual having access to a career in healthcare becomes highly unlikely. In fact, a 2015 study showed that the mere existence of a criminal record reduced employer responses to job applications by 50%. The job callback rate was reduced by 60% for Black male job candidates. In the city of Chicago, the negative impact of criminalization, and ultimately a criminal record, becomes evident in disproportionate unemployment rates. The ten Chicago community areas with the highest unemployment rates are each majority Black or Latino, according to 2015 data. These community areas have an unemployment rate of 22.4% and above, compared to a 12.1% average in the city. Four of these ten community areas (Roseland, West Englewood, Auburn Gresham, North Lawndale) are the same ones in which individuals are most often released from the justice system.

Health workforce development organization that focus efforts on ensuring that individuals with criminal records have access to health careers are engaged in important work; however, this back-end advocacy will do nothing to disrupt the disproportionate number of young people of color who are removed from classrooms throughout their early education. According to findings by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, over 70% of youth involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Black or Latino. In order to understand the lack of racial and ethnic diversity in health careers, we must first understand the criminalization of people of color as a process – beginning as early as pre-kindergarten – that systematically removes potential candidates from health career pathways.

As the state’s population diversifies and there is an expansion of health career options, more opportunities emerge for individuals from underrepresented and underserved communities to consider entering health careers. But, all too often, underrepresented populations are overrepresented within neighborhoods with the fewest resources and the greatest likelihood of contact with the criminal justice system. It is the process of criminalization along the Criminalization Pipeline, rather than the actual criminal record itself that serves as a barrier to diversifying our health workforce.

Fortunately, the state of Illinois has taken legislative steps to ensure that individuals with records are more fully included in society, but there is still a long way to go. In order to ensure a qualified health workforce that reflects the community it serves, barriers to entry for careers in health, specifically criminalization of people of color, should be a priority. This series was written to encourage cross-sectoral communication around more equitable workforce programming, policy, and advocacy efforts in education, labor, health, and in the legal system. A broader and more inclusive discussion of these issues will allow us to come together in order to truly diversify the health workforce and address social inequities.

Jun 29, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Meet our Staff: Madison Hammett and Tiffany N. Ford

Madison Hammett, MPH, MSW
Meet our newest staff member, Madison Hammett, Policy Analyst for the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative. Madison joins Health & Medicine from Stroger Hospital of Cook County where she worked as a social worker for the Department of Trauma providing psychoeducation and support to adolescent survivors of trauma. She is also a Fellow for Life with the Chicago Area Schweitzer Fellows Program, for which she developed a trauma-informed support program for incarcerated mothers and their children.

What interested you in working at Health & Medicine?
After working a few years in direct services as a social worker in the trauma unit at Stroger Hospital, I wanted to do work that would make a more comprehensive impact on my patients and their healthcare. Often in direct services, it can feel overwhelming because we have very little say in the macro-level work that influence care and resources, as well as the circumstances that bring patients to us. Working at Health & Medicine was appealing to me due to broad reach of the organization, as well as the potential impact of our programming and partnerships. Rather than spending time in a reactive role, where I was often putting out fires well after the trauma had occurred, now I can do work that impacts people all over the state and leads to the prevention of trauma and exposure to ACEs.

What did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be either an archaeologist like Indiana Jones or a doctor, so I split the difference and got a degree in medical anthropology.

Tiffany N. Ford, MPH

This summer, Health & Medicine bids a fond farewell to Senior Policy Analyst Tiffany N. Ford. Tiffany joined the Health & Medicine team in May 2016 and has worked on diverse projects including our forum series, health workforce efforts, and our health equity initiatives. This fall Tiffany will begin pursuing her PhD in Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

What’s your favorite part of working at Health & Medicine?
My favorite part of working at Health & Medicine is being in a space where I am able to speak openly and honestly about my politics. I feel comfortable naming the deeply rooted norms and values that shape health inequities, like racism and classism. I recognize that not everyone has the freedom to do that in their job; I am happy to have had that here at Health & Medicine.

Favorite project since you’ve been here?
I’ve gotten to work on a ton of really interesting projects in my two years here at Health & Medicine. My favorite however, is a paper that I wrote that topic-wise probably seems the least exciting. Last summer, we released a report called Efficient Health Workforce Data Collection in Illinois. That paper recommended that Illinois collect detailed data at the point of relicensure for all health professionals in the state. That project is my favorite because it began as my practicum research project when I was still in graduate school and interning at Health & Medicine. It is really special to me that that work was able to become a full policy recommendation brought before the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation. I’m really proud of that.

Tell us about your next steps? Why did you chose to go for your PhD?
I’ll be leaving Health & Medicine in July to begin my PhD in Public Policy (specializing in Social Policy) at the University of Maryland in College Park. I chose a PhD program in public policy because I wanted to sharpen my lens as a policy researcher, analyst, and scholar so that I can more effectively contribute to the design and implementation of more equitable policy solutions that advance the process of health equity in the U.S. I am specifically interested in research and data that inform urban policy decisions in major cities like Chicago.

Jun 06, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

What is Juneteenth? Links, Resources, and Local Celebrations

This year, for the first time in our organization’s history, Health & Medicine is celebrating Juneteenth. Here, we’ve complied some links and resources about the significance of this holiday. If you don’t already, we hope that you or your organization will consider joining us in honoring this important day.

What is Juneteenth?
Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger led thousands of federal troops to Galveston, Texas to announce that the Civil War had ended, and slaves had been freed. While the official date of the Emancipation Proclamation was 1863, it would take two years for the news to reach the remote territory of Texas. Upon Gen. Granger’s arrival, approximately 250,000 Texan slaves had no idea that their freedom had been secured.

Part of the reason Health & Medicine is celebrating Juneteenth is to promote narrative change and increase dialogue as a step toward recognizing and rectifying historical injustice. We hope you will join us in this celebration either by honoring the day itself or spreading the word over social media and to your network. Please consider sharing these social media messages and adding ones of your own. And don’t forget to tag us @HMPRG.

Sample social media messages:
  • The Fourth of July is not the only Independence Day that deserves to be celebrated. #Juneteenth #HistoryMatters @HMPRG
  • Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration honoring the end of slavery in the United States.  Celebrated on June 19th of every year, marks the day that the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom in 1865. How will you celebrate #Juneteenth? @HMPRG
  • Historical context matters to health equity. Celebrating Juneteenth is a step towards recognizing the full scope of American history and the unfinished work of advancing racial justice. How will you celebrate #Juneteenth? @HMPRG
  • Click here to access social media-ready images to accompany your post.
Chicago has a rich tradition of Juneteenth celebrations. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are a few local celebrations:
Jun 06, 2018 Written By: Tiffany N Ford

Juneteenth is African American Independence Day and it's past time that we celebrate it

For the first time in the organization’s history, Health & Medicine Policy Research Group will be celebrating Juneteenth, a day regarded as the oldest national celebration of African American liberation in the United States. I’m not sure that I can fully describe how valued this decision makes me feel as a Black employee of the organization, but I am going to try.

When I was a little girl, my mother gave me research projects to complete every summer. She said she wanted to keep my brain working, but really, I think this was an attempt at keeping me busy and distracted for the months in between school. Fortunately for her, both goals were accomplished. Her assignments always centered on topics that she knew I would not learn in public school: African American history. I wrote papers about the brilliance of Madame C.J. Walker, the bravery of Ruby Bridges, and the importance of Juneteenth, among many others. Each of these topics expanded my own understanding of myself as a Black girl; however, Juneteenth always confused me. Although I was already out of school for the summer, my 10 year-old brain could never understand why June 19th didn’t have a special note on my calendar. It was such a historic day, but wasn’t mentioned anywhere that I could find with my novice research skills. That was one of the first times that I had to grapple with the realization that many African Americans grow used to: despite our ancestors’ exploitation to build the United States of America, we are still not welcomed, acknowledged, or truly valued in this country.

Juneteenth, celebrated on June 19th of every year, marks the day that the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned of their freedom in 1865. Although you won’t see it on many calendars or acknowledged in mainstream media, June 19th is an African American Independence Day. To have that day largely erased year after year is not only a slight to the little Black girl inside of me and other African Americans alive today, but an ongoing disregard of our ancestors who remained in chattel slavery for an additional two and a half years until the news of their freedom made it to their plantation.  June 19th is their Independence Day.

The definition of health equity that we use at Health & Medicine, coined by Dr. Camara P. Jones, states that health equity is a process of assurance of the conditions for optimal health for all people. The definition goes on to say that achieving health equity requires at least 3 things: 1) Valuing all individuals and populations equally; 2) Recognizing and rectifying historical injustices; and 3) Providing resources according to need. Health & Medicine’s decision to celebrate Juneteenth advances the process of health equity by valuing African American Independence Day equally to that of other important holidays in the U.S. This celebration also works toward recognizing and rectifying historical injustice through narrative change and increased dialogue about the history of that day.

You see, celebrating Juneteenth is about much more than providing an additional day off for employees. Celebrating and acknowledging Juneteenth is an organizational recognition that the Fourth of July is not the only Independence Day that deserves to be celebrated. Celebrating Juneteenth means recognizing American history – my ancestors’ history – and honoring it with the same vigor that we honor other important days, an action that we do not do enough of in this country.

I am excited that Health & Medicine is taking this important step in changing the narrative around Juneteenth. I sincerely hope that other organizations will see the value and follow suit so that maybe one day, other little Black children can look at June 19th on the calendar and know that they live in a country that values them, too.

The author and her family (Tiffany is far right).
May 15, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Members of the ACEs Collaborative Participate in National Convening

On April 25th and 26th, Director of the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative (the Collaborative), Lara Altman, attended the Center for Health Care Strategies’ Advancing Trauma-Informed Care convening in New York City.  

Advancing Trauma-Informed Care is a national initiative led by the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS) and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and its goal is to understand how trauma-informed approaches can be practically implemented across the health sector. After hearing about Health & Medicine and the Collaborative’ s work with Trauma-Informed Hospital Collaborative—a group of 16+ Chicago area hospitals working to begin (and advance) the process of becoming trauma-informed systems—CHCS invited members of the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative to attend the convening.  Marlita White, Director of Violence Prevention and Behavioral Health at the Chicago Department of Public Health, represented the Collaborative on a panel entitled “Integrating Trauma-Informed Care into Strategic Priorities.”
Lara and Marlita were excited to be among other leaders in the field of trauma-informed care. They heard from representatives from places like San Francisco Department of Public Health, Montefiore Medical Group, and Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition—all of whom shared their successes and challenges. The discussions reinforced the unique nature of our Trauma-Informed Hospital Collaborative, which is the first such group in the country.  It also highlighted that the process of becoming trauma-informed takes time and resources, and that there is still much to be learned about how we measure impact and financial returns on investment. Lara and Marlita left inspired by the possibilities ahead which will be shared with our partners in Illinois. For those interested in learning more, check out this resource guide prepared by CHCS.

Apr 10, 2018 Written By: Lara Altman

Event Spotlight: The Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative Welcomes Norwegian Delegation

On April 6, 2018 the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health - Region 5 hosted Shared Learning in ACEs, Trauma, and Trauma-Informed Approaches from Norway and Illinois, a day-long summit that brought together a delegation of Norwegian government officials, Chicagoland leaders in ACEs and trauma-informed work, and key federal government officials spearheading these efforts on the national level.

The day was a testament to the incredible collective impact of the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative members and how we are influencing policy, practice, and systems change. After opening remarks from Douglas O’Brien, CAPT Anna Gonzales, and Michelle Hoersch from HHS, as well as Margie Schaps Executive Director of Health & Medicine Policy Research Group, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Dr. Julie Morita spoke about CDPH’s leadership in making Chicago a trauma-informed city.  

Attendees also heard from Inga Marte Thorkildsen, the Vice Mayor for the Department of Education and Early Childhood in Oslo, about the Norway delegation’s progress on making their programs, agencies, and systems more trauma-informed. The rest of the day included sessions on ACEs and trauma work with communities, health systems, youth and schools, and the criminal justice system across Chicagoland. Attendees also had the opportunity to learn about ACEs Connection as well as an innovative online curriculum for medical professionals.

The success of the day hinged on the participation of our Collaborative members, and it was truly an honor work with such dedicated and skilled partners. We also want to thank our partners at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health – Region 5, Michelle Hoersch and Lesley Craig, who were instrumental to the planning and implementation of the day.

To further share learning from the informative event, we invite you to review conference resources and handouts below:

Mar 28, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Schweitzer Fellow Spotlight: Cuidate Project Connects Families with Nature and Healthy Lifestyles

2017-18 Chicago Schweitzer Fellow Maryclaret Ndubuisi-Obi, a student from DePaul University School of Nursing, epitomizes the spirit of the Fellowship through her dedication to service and commitment to health equity. For her Fellowship project, Maryclaret partnered with Roberti Community House (RCH), a community center that serves a distressed neighborhood in Waukegan, where she worked to improve the health and wellbeing of Hispanic women and their families through nature walks, exercise and stress reduction sessions, and health education workshops throughout the year. At the end of her project, Maryclaret interviewed the participants in her Cuidate (“Take Care”) Project and about the experiences they shared.

Community member Estela Perez, speaking with her friend Maribel Godina, who translated for her, shared that before the program she had not used the forest preserves or local parks in Waukegan because she did not know that they were there and did not feel capable of accessing them. For her part, Maribel shared her own experience as a mother living with a disability and struggling with isolation, “I go out now to the different parks. I tell my kids ‘get your jackets, get your coats, let’s go.’ It doesn’t matter if it’s winter or if it’s raining, you can always do these nature walks. Every time you go to these parks, you see something different, which motivates me to go and see what has changed with the different seasons. This motivates my kids as well because, as Estela mentioned, sometimes we don’t know about what we have here—but thanks to Mary, RCH, and the Nature Walk Program, we discovered our own parks and our own community.”

Maryclaret’s project provided exercise and meditation sessions that ranged from Zumba to Mindfulness. Participants Guadelupe Ruiz and Gina shared that the sessions provide a sort of social support group that they have come to rely on for motivation and community. Maribel said that the groups and meditations helped to reduce her stress—and introduced her to breathing exercises that have helped her “to be peaceful and connect with [her] inner self.”  

Another component of Maryclaret’s project included health screenings. She built partnerships with providers to bring culturally-competent services, including language translation, directly to the community—meeting clients in spaces where they were already comfortable, had trusting established relationships, and felt safe.

Finding access to health services and screenings proved life changing for community members like Amor Caracas who, speaking through an interpreter, said, “[I am] very thankful for the people who bring the doctors here to check our blood pressure.” She explained that she was not able to afford testing and did not know where and how to receive treatment, and that the screenings Cuidate provided are important to her health and to the health of her community.

The women talk about the future of Cuidate in hopeful terms and with determination to continue. In fact, they have already started brainstorming improvements and solutions to a scarcity in supplies.

As Gina noted light-heartedly, “We need weights. We have limited supplies so we use cans of beans sometimes to do the exercises, but we do need the weights and materials to do a variety of exercises.”

Their commitment to the community that Maryclaret helped them build is clear, and their determination to continue to feel ownership over their lives, their health, and their community is unmistakable—outcomes we hope all Schweitzer Fellows can foster. We are grateful to the women and families at Roberti House, and to all of our community members at sites around Chicagoland for opening their doors, and their hearts, to our Fellows.   

Feb 14, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

Learnings from Organizations that are Addressing Trauma

Augmenting a larger 2016 Environmental Scan conducted by Health & Medicine's Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative, in 2018 we set out to offer a more in-depth snapshot of organizations working to address trauma. The resulting report--Learnings from Organizations that are Addressing Trauma--is based on an additional round of 27 interviews included five organizations that were part of the original scan and 22 that had not been previously interviewed. As with the 2016 scan, efforts were made to include organizations representing a wide variety of sectors; those that were at different points along the implementation journey; large and small organizations; those who provide direct service; and those that are facilitators of trauma training.

Interviewees were asked to describe their organization’s journey towards trauma awareness and share how their organization is currently incorporating this awareness. They were also asked to discuss promising approaches, ingredients for success, as well as challenges and barriers. Finally, they were asked to share advice for others who were either starting out or in the midst of introducing trauma awareness and trauma-informed approaches and services into their organizations. Despite the diversity of organizations interviewed relative to discipline, size, geography, and depth of implementation, many common themes emerged.

Here are some key findings:

Ingredients for Success at a Glance
While interviewees shared different approaches to trauma-informed organizational change, the following common themes emerged:
  • Recognize and remember that this type of culture change takes time; that you cannot expect everything at once; and that process slows things down, but is critically important.
  • Another critical ingredient for moving this work forward is finding champions and developing a core group of people to spearhead and maintain the process.
  • Buy-in from every level of the organization is critical to culture change and staff voice should inform the process.
  • Figure out how to persuasively sell the program. Know your audience. Ask yourself what they would respond to and tailor what you present.
  • Intentionally and strategically keep this work on the front burner. Having a smattering of trainings is not enough for this work to take root.
  • Be open to new ideas and learn from others - this work is a shift for everyone and requires an openness to learning.
Challenges at a Glance
Interviewees shared the following challenges and barriers in their journey towards trauma awareness:
  • Limited funding and tight resources are an ongoing challenge given the extraordinary need.
  • Many of the interviewees were leading trauma awareness work as part of another job and few had the resources to have a staff person or team whose sole focus is moving this forward.
  • Frequent staff turnover requires ongoing training on trauma-informed practices and also leads to added stress on supervisors and peers.
  • Time allocation and competing priorities were also seen as a barrier.
  • Not all staff will buy into the changes needed to shift a culture. This may lead to staff and leadership loss.
  • Interviewees recognized that evaluation was important but often lacked funding for evaluation and documentation activities.
  • Growing interest in the impact of trauma is both a challenge and an opportunity. Some organizations may call themselves “trauma-informed” without the depth and long-term commitment this actually requires.

Jan 17, 2018 Written By: Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)

ACEs Policy Recommendations at a Glance

Earlier this month, the Illinois ACEs Response Collaborative released three revised policy briefs on the impact of ACEs in the health, justice, and education systems including promising practices and recommended actions for change. These briefs were developed by members of the Collaborative—system leaders in Illinois who are working from an ACEs-informed lens to improve systems to prevent and mitigate trauma across generations.
Rooted in social justice, these briefs are a call to action to move upstream, build resiliency, and recognize how addressing inequity and trauma can improve systems while also building resiliency.

Each brief provides concise, actionable policy recommendations for the sector. Recommendations focus on both small “p” policy changes within local systems and agencies can have an important impact on the people served, as well as large “P” policy at the federal, state and local levels that can build the foundation for preventing and addressing ACEs in a systematic “upstream” approach. The following recommendations “at a glance” reflect an understanding of ACEs and trauma which requires multiple levels of policy change since effectively addressing ACEs requires working within all the contexts in which they occur: families, communities and society.
Health Systems and Providers
  • Increase awareness of ACEs and resilience, particularly among policy makers and providers.
  • Support federal and state policy that supports families and communities, such as paid sick time and universal day care.
  • Fund a wide array of family supports especially early childhood programs, including home visiting, so families can thrive.
  • Equip providers and systems with tools to screen for and address ACEs and develop trauma-sensitive health care systems that support patients and staff.
  • Use BRFSS data and proxies for high ACE scores to focus services in high-need geographic areas.  
  • Utilize an ACE and trauma-informed framework in planning, funding and implementing services.
  • Develop innovative plans for use of health care expenditures by institutions and government for trauma-informed practices such as universal coverage for services and programs that help to prevent and treat ACEs/trauma.

Educators and Stakeholders
  • Rethink discipline and encourage strategies that keep kids in school.
  • Support teachers with professional development,
  • in-classroom supports and social emotional learning techniques.
  • Prepare youth to be successful in school by building coordinated supports for youth and families starting prenatally and continuing throughout the lifespan.  
  • Increase parent engagement.
  • Build and support self-regulation skills.
  • Change policy to support safe and trauma-sensitive classrooms.

Juvenile and Criminal Justice Systems
  • Justice systems must seek to be procedurally fair.
  • All staff in all systems must understand the impact of ACEs and must cooperate and collaborate on solutions.
  • Evidence-based screening for ACEs should be in place at each step of an individual’s involvement with the justice system, and staff should respond in trauma-informed ways to address and prevent further trauma and criminal system involvement.
  • Systems must address the trauma faced by their own staff in the course of their work.

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