Center for Public Health Equity
On Wednesday, December 12th, 2018, Health & Medicine held a town hall meeting, Creating a Healthy Equity Agenda for Chicago’s Elections, part of our Chicago Forum for Justice in Health Policy series. Attendees were asked to identify overarching problems within their sectors and discuss their impact at different levels of government—neighborhood, city, county, regional, state, and national. This report summarizes the most emergent issues and recommendations shared by participants. The report is divided into ten areas, each listing Issues and Needs as well as Policy Ideas and Approaches.
The Cook County Department of Public Health’s current community health improvement plan lists structural racism as a ‘fundamental cause of health inequity, associated with imbalances in political power throughout society. It functions to normalize and legitimize cultural, institutional, and personal hierarchies and inequity that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse health outcomes for people of color.’ Our testimony lays out that Cook County has longstanding health inequities. Further, racism is a fundamental cause of health inequities. Cook County’s Regional Gang Database (RGID) is both itself a manifestation of and cause of further racism against people of color—in particular against Black people and against immigrants in our county. Our elected officials have a responsibility to be accountable for and redress the harms of RGID.
In order to advance health equity, people need access to high quality, equitable education, well-paid and safe jobs, affordable housing, and freedom from discrimination and violence, among other important issues. As such, our legislative tracking is broader than most that focus solely on mental health, healthcare access, or education, as examples. We hope our curated list of Illinois legislation will provides guidance for those who care about health equity and think through the lens of the structural determinants of health inequities.
On September 7, 2016, Health & Medicine staff attended a meeting jointly hosted by the Center for Community Health Equity and Health & Medicine’s Health Equity Initiative, to help advise the Chicago Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Department of Epidemiology on how to both accurately and reliably measure experiences of racism in Chicago. The recommendations and notes in this report are intended to help advance CDPH’s work toward accurately measuring racism, and ultimately aiding in the process of confronting structural racism and advancing toward achievement of health equity in Chicago.