36 hospitals, health centers pledge to work to improve health equity across
the city, focusing on vulnerable neighborhoods
Calling systemic racism a public health crisis, three dozen Chicago healthcare
organizations are pledging to do more to overcome health disparities in
minority communities and ensure greater health equity across the city.
The group, which began their work through Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s
Racial Equity Rapid Response Team, initially joined forces to focus on
COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on minority neighborhoods by
making testing more accessible, implementing contact tracing, and increasing
distribution of PPE across the South Side and the West Side. The organizations
expanded their work beyond the pandemic in the wake of the horrifying
and unconscionable deaths of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Ahmaud Arbery,
Breonna Taylor, and others.
“Racism results in generational trauma and poverty, while also unquestionably
causing higher rates of illness and death in black and brown communities,”
the organizers said in an open letter to the Chicago community. “We
have seen — in its rawest form — how the trauma of systemic
racism adds to the historical injustices that have disproportionately
affected communities of color.”
The 36 organizations, which include federally qualified health centers,
safety-net hospitals, and major academic medical centers, collectively
care for more than 8 million patients in the Chicago area.
“This statement represents an important first step, but the real
work is just beginning,” said Carmen Vergara, Chief Operating Officer
of Esperanza Health Centers. “We need to continue challenging ourselves
to acknowledge and address the deep, structural ways in which racism affects
communities of color – from lack of meaningful economic opportunities
to issues of over-policing, housing insecurity, and mass incarceration.
Most importantly, we need to hold ourselves and each other accountable
for the vision of change we’re articulating here.”
Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president for community health equity at
Rush University Medical Center and associate provost for community affairs
at Rush University, said the collaboration among the 36 healthcare organizations
will be the key to achieving transformational change.
“We hope that this statement by Chicago health providers naming racism
as a public health crisis will lead to meaningful structural change across
a number of our public and private systems from the healthcare to the
criminal justice system,” Ansell said.
The groups, which have a long history of working to overcome disparities
in the communities they serve, committed to taking seven action steps
to advance their work. These include:
- Re-examining institutional policies with an equity lens and making any
policy changes that promote equity and opportunity.
- Improving access to primary and specialty care.
- Continuing to focus on helping communities overcome chronic conditions
like diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.
- Continuing to advocate for investments that create innovative solutions
to achieve enduring improvements in access, quality, and health outcomes
for our communities.
- Continuing their commitment to hiring locally and promoting leaders of color.
- Renewing and expanding each organization’s commitment to providing
anti-racism and implicit bias training for physicians, nurses and staff.
- Advocating for increased funding for social needs, social services, and
programs that promote social justice.
“As part of this collaborative work, we are answering the call to
eradicate the disparities that put our South Side communities at higher
risk for chronic illness and infectious disease like COVID-19,”
said Brenda Battle, vice president of UChicago Medicine’s Urban
Health Initiative and its Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer.
“Working with our partner healthcare providers, we are committed
to addressing systemic racism and dedicating our resources and research
to achieving health equity and the highest standards of patient care.”
Marcus C. Betts, Assistant Vice-Chancellor, UI Health, called the open
letter “a bold first step.”
“The commitments that each institution has made activates a reinvigorated
social contract that circumscribes and elevates our shared responsibilities
to our city and state,” Betts said. “Building on the racial
equity platform created by Mayor Lightfoot, we look forward to enthusiastically
continuing this work with other stakeholders.”
The full joint statement is attached to this news release. Institutions
that signed the letter are:
- Access Community Health Network
- Advocate Aurora Health
- AHS Family Health Center
- Alivio Medical Center
- AMITA Health
- Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago
- Aunt Martha’s Health & Wellness
- Chicago Family Health Center
- Cook County Health
- Erie Family Health Centers
- Esperanza Health Centers
- Friend Health
- Heartland Alliance Health
- Howard Brown Health
- La Rabida Children’s Hospital
- Lawndale Christian Health Center
- Loretto Hospital
- Medical Home Network and MHN ACO
- Mercy Hospital and Medical Center
- UI Health Mile Square Health Center
- Near North Health Service Corporation
- New Roseland Community Hospital
- NorthShore University HealthSystem
- Northwestern Medicine
- Norwegian American Hospital
- Oak Street Health
- PCC Community Wellness Center
- PrimeCare Health Community Health Centers
- Rush University System for Health
- Saint Anthony Hospital
- Sinai Health System
- South Shore Hospital
- St. Bernard Hospital
- TCA Health, Inc.
- University of Chicago Medicine
- University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System (UI Health)
Civic Consulting Alliance, a nonprofit organization marshalling collaborative,
pro bono investments to get big things done for Chicago, is coordinating
the work of the Racial Equity Rapid Response Team and supported the development
and organization of the joint statement.