The ten vibrant and diverse neighborhoods comprising Chicago’s West Side are at the heart of the city’s civic and commercial vitality. Yet people in these neighborhoods experience rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and infant mortality rates far above the national average.
Barriers to health and wellness extend far beyond the health sector. Medical evidence shows that the root causes of many illnesses that shorten the lives of people who live in urban areas are not based in biology or behavior, but are instead determined by the social forces like inequities in education, employment, food access, violence and transportation. The arteries circulating opportunity and prosperity to the West Side are blocked.
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A united voice for West Side health
In January 2017, health care and civic institutions convened groups of people and organizations to share ideas and feedback on how to improve health. Cooperation on a scale equal to these challenges is needed as initiatives offered by one institution or focused on one disease do not address the underlying causes of poor health.
Nearly 120 individuals and 50 organizations started to more systematically identify the obstacles and challenges to health, and a Planning Committee with seats allocated to neighborhood representatives, government, non-profits, and health care institutions was formed.
A unique and holistic approach
In February 2018, West Side United shared plans how to improve health of these communities.
By addressing stark disparities in health equity—the degree to which everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible—the group intends to lower these obstacles by being an incubator and accelerator to scale the impact of existing initiatives, develop new programs, and provide coordinated support to existing neighborhood networks of community-based organizations.