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

May 20, 2016

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?

Health & Medicine in the NYTimes

May 13, 2016

A letter to the editor by Health & Medicine’s Director of Health Equity Wesley Epplin was published in Friday's (5/13/16) New York Times in response to their recent article, In Deeply Divided Chicago, Most Agree: City Is Off Course (5/6/16).  The Times’ story shared results from a survey of Chicagoans conducted by the paper and the Kaiser Family Foundation which showed divides in people's perceptions of the relative degree of unfairness in the city.

“Residents of Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city, appear to have lost faith in many of its essential institutions, including the police, courts and the public schools,” the article stated. And continued: “The sharpest levels of discontent appear among black residents on the South and West Sides. When it comes to hopes for young people, satisfaction with city services and — especially — expectations about interactions with the police, the divide between black and white Chicago is striking.”

The lived experience and perceptions of unfairness measured in the survey are closely related to the wide health inequities--unfair and modifiable differences in health status and outcomes—that are seen in Chicago. A data compendium prepared by the Chicago Department of Public Health and published during the Community Health Assessment phase of Healthy Chicago 2.0 development further highlights these inequities.

In short, the perceived unfairness described in the Time’s article can also be measured in very concrete, objective terms.  Health & Medicine’s letter sought to link what people feel is unjust, with measured social, economic, political, and racial injustices, and also to health inequities.

Health & Medicine is proud to have been involved in developing Healthy Chicago 2.0, advocating for strong goals and objectives on the social determinants of health which were included in the Community Development section of the plan.  Members of Health & Medicine’s staff and board took a leading role in including racism in policing as an impediment to health equity, with a goal and objectives for public health to help address on this long-term injustice. As emphasized in the letter, this will require uniting "people’s demands for political and economic change for a more just city, society and world."

Here is the text of the letter:

Current and historical structural racism, as well as economic and political power inequities, help illuminate the unfairness described in your article.

Chicago Department of Public Health data indicate extreme health inequities — unfair and remediable differences in health status and outcomes across different population groups. In Near North Side, a predominantly white community with per capita income of $86,780, residents enjoyed 85.2 years life expectancy in 2010.

Compare that with 68.8 years in West Garfield Park, a black community a few miles west with per capita income below $20,000.

This 16-year life expectancy gap is both unfair and avoidable. Unfair differences in policing, housing, education, transportation, employment, community development and health care all contribute to health inequities.
Recognizing our unjust avoidable divides — and their causes — can help unite people’s demands for political and economic change for a more just city, society and world.

Action Alert: Support All Kids

Apr 11, 2016

On July 1, 2016, unless the Illinois General Assembly and Governor take action, almost 41,000 Illinois children will lose access to healthcare.

Support HB 5736, amending the Covering ALL KIDS Health Insurance Act to extend the repeal date from July 1, 2016 to October 1, 2019.

Sign a witness slip as a proponent in 5 quick steps:

  1. Click here to access a witness slip for HB 5736 before it is heard before the House Appropriations Human Services Committee. (Deadline: 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2016).
  2. Provide the required personal information.
  3. In the Position section, you will note that you are a Proponent.
  4. In the Testimony section, check: “Record of Appearance Only” if you only plan to submit a witness slip.
  5. Forward this action alert to others.

You can also call legislators to let them know that you support HB 5736 to amend the Covering ALL KIDS Health Insurance Act to extend the repeal date from July 1, 2016 to October 1, 2019.

Updates about HB 5736 will be discussed at the Health & Medicine forum on April 14, 2016.  Register here.

Loyola University Chicago to Host an Issue Briefing on Lead Poisoning in Chicago and Cook County - April 4, 2016

Mar 30, 2016

Health & Medicine is proud to be a co-sponsor of an upcoming event hosted by Loyola University Chicago on health challenge of national and local significance: lead poisoning.

The recent lead crisis in Flint has raised public awareness of the problem of childhood lead poisoning in Chicago, and its devastating impact on children, families, and communities. Join government officials, advocates, researchers, physicians, community members, among others, for a public forum to discuss lead in Chicago and Cook County.

Issues to be discussed include:
-How extensive is the risk of children being lead poisoned?
-What are the sources of lead and their effects on children?
-How do the city and county currently respond?
-What remedies are available?

The State of the City and County: An Issue Briefing on Lead Poisoning in Chicago and Cook County
Monday, April 4, 2016
8:30 am - 12:00 pm
Loyola University Chicago School of Law
25 E. Pearson, Chicago, IL | Power Rogers & Smith Ceremonial Courtroom, 10th Floor