Study Gives Chicago Top Marks For Health Policies

Study Gives Chicago Top Marks For Health Policies

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A new study puts Chicago near the top of U.S. cities with the best health policies.

The CityHealth study doesn’t look at health outcomes, like infant mortality. Instead, it looks at what public health policies a city has adopted — like an indoor smoking ban.

“You still have all kinds of health challenges and problems, much of it driven by poverty and who your demographics are,” said Shelley Hearne, the study’s principal investigator. “But if you put in place some basic policies, it gives a much fairer shot to everybody, regardless of their demographic, or how much money they’ve got in their wallet.”

Based on policies, she said, “Chicago is stepping up to the plate.”

But the competition is weak.

“What you might think are really basic protections are not standard operating practice, still, in the biggest 40 cities in the country,” Hearne said.

For instance, in Nashville it’s still legal to smoke in bars— and in nursing homes.

The same weakness in other cities explains why Chicago gets top marks in areas that might surprise locals, like “inclusionary zoning” to create more affordable housing.

“We were propelled to the top just because we have an inclusionary zoning policy, and a lot of cities don’t,” said Lauren Nolan, a economic-development planner with the Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at UIC.

Dan Weissmann is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow him @danweissmann.