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UChicago Medicine Outlines South Side Health Priorities

The university will focus on managing chronic diseases, giving resources to violence victims and reducing health inequities.

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A nurse practitioner prepares a vaccination for a patient in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green

More than half of the South Side population located in the University of Chicago hospital’s service area lives in poverty, according to a new report.

The study, done every three years by the university, shows that the population in 12 zip codes in 35 communities live below the poverty line.

This year’s Community Health Needs Assessment doesn’t show much has changed in terms of racial health disparities. But the 2019 report includes in-depth community health profiles that link to some of the root causes of health inequities, such as high rates of preventable diseases.

The analysis looks at economic and housing factors in a given neighborhood. It also takes into account top causes of death, food insecurity and how often residents exercise.

“We’re paying attention to the health of the population and the health of the community, not merely the people who come through our doors,” said Dr. Doriane Miller, an associate professor of medicine.

The report also is used to identity health priorities for South Side communities.

For the next three years, the university hospital will focus on three areas: preventing and managing chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes; providing resources for those who have experienced violence; and reducing health inequities by addressing root causes such as access to care, food and employment.

UChicago Medicine says it’s already had an impact in the last focus area. They worked with community partners to create the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center to reduce high rates among black children in Chicago. Through increased screening, home visits and school-based initiatives, there’s been a drop in missed school days and emergency room visits.

“We really are seeing this as a collective response to an issue that affects so many children on the South Side of the city and also thinking about where these children may receive their care,” Miller said.

Natalie Moore is WBEZ’s South Side reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @natalieymoore.

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