November 22, 2019

Hospitals Turn to Community Partnerships to Improve Health Equity

By Miguel Valdez Soto

Residents living in Chicago’s West Side have a 16-year-shorter life expectancy than their neighbors living just a few miles away in the city’s Loop neighborhood. But a program called West Side United, made up of several Chicago hospitals and civic groups, aims to change that by addressing some of the health equity issues that contribute to such disparities. It is well documented that factors such as unequal access to employment, healthy food, transportation, and exposure to neighborhood violence all contribute to illnesses—including heart disease—that can reduce life expectancy, noted Darlene Hightower, associate vice president of the Office of Community Engagement at Rush University, 1 of West Side United’s partners in a press release. “So if being healthy is largely determined by what happens outside of the four walls of a hospital, we needed to go to the people working in many sectors across multiple neighborhoods to determine what those barriers to health are,” said Hightower in the release.

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