UI Health joins committee to improve health on West Side

aerial view of University of Illinois Hospital and west side of campus

UI Health is part of the newly formed West Side Anchor Committee — a group that includes several nearby hospitals and other organizations that together will find ways to use their local, collective economic power to improve community health through creating economic opportunities for the people who live on Chicago’s West Side.

“The West Side Anchor Committee formed to help address some of the social determinants of health; jobs and economic opportunities are two factors that play a huge role in health,” said Robert Barish, vice chancellor for health affairs.

The West Side Anchor Committee is a sub-committee of the West Side Total Health Collaborative, which will formally launch this year. Members of this group, which include representatives from government, nonprofit, education and health care institutions will propose initiatives to improve neighborhood health by addressing inequalities in health care, education, economic vitality and the physical environment. The overarching goal: to halve the 16-year life-expectancy gap between the Loop and West Garfield Park by 2028.

The West Side Anchor Committee includes individuals from UI Health and UIC, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, Presence Health, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Rush System, Loretto Hospital and the Illinois Medical District. Collectively, these health care institutions represent 43,000 total employees. In 2015 and 2016, more than 5,600 individuals were hired and $2.8 billion was spent on external supplies and services by these institutions.

More than 400,000 people call the West Side home, but health outcomes for this community are worse than other communities in Chicago. Life expectancy in West Garfield Park, one of the neighborhoods on the West Side, is 69 years old, compared with 85 years for people living in the Loop. Rates of diabetes, obesity, cancer and asthma are particularly high on the West Side.

Some of the core goals of the West Side Anchor Committee are to hire, invest and purchase collectively so that opportunity flows to residents of the West Side.

“The goal is that the member organizations work together to better the communities we serve,” Barish said. “This is a long-term commitment, and we are excited to be part of this initiative.”

The West Side Anchor Committee is supported by Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy and the Civic Consulting Alliance.

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