More Health Resources Equal Better Residents’ Health

August 16, 2011

How healthy are you? How about your Chicago real estate neighbors? Do you have easy access to local healthy resources?

The Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health, conducted a health study of 77 Chicago neighborhoods.

It is the first comprehensive profile compiled in one document of the health of residents and resources in Chicago neighborhoods.

The 147-page study tracked the prevalence of five key public “winnable” health issues for the entire city: childhood obesity, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, motor vehicle injury and death.

nurse giving pillbox to patientThe study also tracked health resources and assets such as parks, easy access to high-quality medical care, safe places to exercise and stores that sell affordable healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables.

Examined were the local resources available in four racially diverse neighborhoods — Albany Park (northwest), Chicago Lawn (southwest), South Lawndale (far south) and Auburn Gresham (far south).

The results showed that neighborhoods with the least accessible health resources had the least healthiest residents:

*The north and northwest neighborhoods had the lowest breast cancer mortality rates as well as the most amount of breast health resources, such as mammogram testing sites.

*The south and southwest regions, which have few breast health services, carry the highest breast cancer mortality rates.

*The south and southwest areas also have high rates of HIV infection, but rates are lower in the north, central and west regions because HIV test sites are more plentiful.

*The southwest neighborhood of Chicago Lawn had fewer resources for physical activity and healthy eating compared to the other three neighborhoods, with far fewer stores to buy fruits and vegetables and far less places to be physically active.

“Residents’ health suffers and health care costs rise when people live in unhealthy neighborhoods,” said Romana Hasnain-Wynia, PhD, study coauthor and director of the Center for Healthcare Equity. “Everyone in the city is affected when people can’t easily find a doctor, go for a walk, or buy a piece of fruit.

“You can have the most impact when you focus on the biggest problem. This information helps the city identify where it should target its resources to reduce disparities in health care, such as providing funding for free clinics in a neighborhood, if there’s a scarcity of primary care providers.”

The study also revealed major health disparities according to race and ethnicity, showing that African-American residents, who make up an estimated 33 percent of Chicago’s population, and Hispanic/Latino residents, who comprise 27 percent, fare much worse than white residents. To see those results, click here.

“The issues and disparities outlined in this report are unacceptable, which is why we have to work together as a city to align our focus and resources to create a healthier city for all Chicagoans,” said Chicago’s Commissioner of Health Bechara Choucair.

“Our new public health agenda, which launches [Tuesday], will be Chicago’s first comprehensive public health agenda and the most direct assault on racial and ethnic health disparities in the city of Chicago.”

To see the entire 147-page study, click here or visit

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