Neighborhood Health Study

Image Credit: "A Profile of Health and Health Resources"On Chicago Tonight at 7:00 pm, we discuss A Profile of Health and Health Resources within Chicago’s 77 Community AreasThis new study details the disparities of health and health resources across the city, and was released on Monday by Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the Chicago Department of Public Health, in conjunction with the Aetna Foundation and Aetna Inc. 

After examining 77 Chicago neighborhoods, the study concluded that residents of the south and southwest sides of Chicago generally have poorer health and resources than those in the rest of the city. In addition, the report found health concerns varied in accordance with race and ethnicity. On Tuesday, the City plans to release its new public health agenda, which will address some of the issues highlighted in the study.

“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, M.D. “Our new public health agenda, which launches tomorrow, 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.”

Lead author Juliet Yonek and co-author Romana Hasnain-Wynia used categories from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to structure their findings. Specifically, they studied what the CDC terms Winnable Battles—childhood obesity, breast cancer, HIV/Aids, teen pregnancy, and motor vehicle injury and death.

“You can have the most impact when you focus on the biggest problem,” said Hasnain-Wynia, director of Northwestern’s Center for Healthcare Equity and an associate professor of medicine at the Feinberg School. “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.”

Image Credit: "A Profile of Health and Health Resources"In addition to graphs and charts, a series of maps was produced along with the study.

“The maps help communities identify areas where resources are lacking,” said Yonek, research associate at the Center for Healthcare Equity at Northwestern’s Feinberg School. “Documenting health and resources at the community level helps people feel accountable. Now they can see how to make a difference.”

According to population figures from 2009, black Chicago residents comprise roughly 33 percent of the Chicago’s population, and Hispanic/Latino 27 percent. Yet in 2009, 22.6 percent of black and 22.4 percent of Hispanic/Latino high school students were overweight in comparison to 11.8 percent of white students.

When looking at HIV in 2008, black residents accounted for 60 percent of the diagnoses in both teens and adults, and in 2007 over 96 percent of teenage births were given by black and Hispanic/Latina women. As for breast cancer, a three-year average of data taken from 2005 to 2007 suggests that black women face a cancer mortality rate 1.62 times higher than that of white women.

Finally, motor vehicle accidents in 2007 resulted in roughly twice as many deaths among blacks residents—11.3 per 100,000 population—as among white residents—5.5 per 100,000 population.

Image Credit: "A Profile of Health and Health Resources"

The study also took a closer look at local resources in the following, racially diverse neighborhoods: Albany Park (northwest), Chicago Lawn (southwest), South Lawndale and Auburn Gresham (both far south). The report revealed that, for instance, the south and southwest regions of Chicago have the higher breast cancer mortality rates but the north and northwest regions with the lowest breast cancer mortality rate have most breast health resources. Similarly, the south and southwest regions of Chicago have high rates of HIV infection and fewer HIV test sites than other Chicago regions.

“People in the south and southwest don’t have the same opportunity to improve their health status,” said Yonek. “They won’t have the same opportunity to find out their HIV status, which would enable them to have access to early treatment and delays the progression of the disease.”

Beyond the Winnable Battles, the report also looked at healthy resources and assets: neighborhood parks, the ease of access to high-quality medical care, the availability of safe places to exercise, and stores that sell food that are both affordable and health, such as fruits and vegetables.

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

To view more maps, see the image gallery below.