Leading the way to a healthier Chicago

In Chicago, just 18 percent of high school students eat the recommended about of fruits and vegetables, gun related homicides within Chicago’s African American male population are 18 times the national average and 19 percent of all Chicago Public School students are obese. These are just a few of the findings identified in Healthy Chicago 2.0, the city’s new four-year plan to improve the health and wellbeing of Chicago’s neighborhoods and reduce health inequities across the city.

Jen Brown, Director of ARCC and Community Co-Chair of the Data and Research Action Team for Healthy Chicago 2.0, attended the program's launch

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), working with the Partnership for Healthy Chicago, brought over 130 organizations and residents together to develop a plan for all Chicago. Sectors involved included, health care providers, social service providers, advocates, government agencies businesses, faith-based organizations and academic institutions-including Northwestern University.

The Healthy Chicago 2.0 plan shares findings from an initial community health assessment that collected nearly 10 million data elements, gathered community feedback through town hall meetings and engaged marginalized populations in focus groups. These data exposed health gaps across the city and led to the identification of 10 action areas needing to be addressed by 2020. These include:

•    Expanding partnerships and community engagement

•    Community development

•    Education equity

•    Increasing access to health care and human services

•    Promoting behavioral health

•    Strengthening child and adolescent health

•    Preventing and controlling chronic disease

•    Utilizing and maximizing data and research

•    Reducing violence

•    Reducing the burden of infectious disease

Jen Brown, Director of Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities at Northwestern University’s Center for Community Health (CCH), is Community Co-Chair of the Data and Research Action Team which has two main goals: making high-quality data accessible and equitable and coordinating and disseminating Chicago’s public health research widely.

“I’m excited that data and research is included as a priority,” said Brown. “We talk about the need for evidence-based policy and practice and here’s an opportunity to implement strategies to make this happen and bring a deliberate focus to it.”

To achieve the two goals, Brown worked as part of a team to develop objectives including establishing a functional data sharing network by July 1, 2017, adopting a Chicago-wide health research agenda by December 2017 and establishing a CDPH Research and Evaluation Office that develops internal processes and procedures for research participation collaboration and tracking. These goals are supported by numerous strategies including establishing a technical data sharing infrastructure and data quality standards, encouraging local research institutions to develop promotion criteria that incentive local research dissemination, and developing linkages with local media outlets to disseminate research findings.

“With so many world-class academic institutions located and conducting research here in Chicago," said Brown. “How do we make sure that research is informed by priorities and needs of the city and that the findings and outcomes are beneficial to the city?”

Healthy Chicago 2.0 will work to address these questions by providing the opportunity for Northwestern University and other institutions to work side by side with community partners and public agency partners to design how to do research in Chicago that improves health status and health equity.

Investigators at Northwestern can become involved with Healthy Chicago 2.0 by:

  • Using the data collected by Health Chicago 2.0 to inform their research
  • Schedule a consultation with CCH to discuss ways in which their research could be implemented in Chicago to reduce health inequities

CDPH is hosting panel discussions across the city during the month of May where Healthy Chicago 2.0 will be shared with community members so that they can offer feedback. On May 4th, Jen Brown will be one of the panel members at an event taking place at the Center on Halsted. Click here to access the Healthy Chicago 2.0 plan and details for the upcoming community events.

Posted: May 2, 2016

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