Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=99671
Story Retrieval Date: 6/20/2013 12:24:58 AM CST
The Sinai Urban Health Institute conducted a series of surveys in six communities, mainly on Chicago’s West Side, that are largely Latino and African-American, and compared these communities with the predominately white Northwest neighborhood, Norwood Park..
Here are a few findings:
• In four of the six communities, over 25 percent of those with asthma had poorly controlled asthma, while that number approached or exceeded 50 percent in Humboldt Park and North Lawndale.
• Fourteen percent of the people in both Humboldt Park and Roseland reported having been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with only seven percent in the United States and five percent in Chicago.
• Obesity rates were 41 percent in North Lawndale, 38 percent in Roseland, and 35 percent in Humboldt Park compared with 24 percent for the United States and 25 percent for Chicago.
• Fifty-six percent of South Lawndale respondents didn't have heealth insurance.compared with 40 percent in North Lawndale and 7 percent in Norwood Park.
• Roseland's median household income was the same as that for Chicago, but 32 percent of Roseland residents have no health insurance.
• Thirty-four percent of Puerto Rican children and 25 percent of black children have asthma have asthma compared to 20 percent of white children.
Sinai Community Institute Hosts Summit on African-American Health
A five-digit number--your ZIP code--can mean the difference between leading a healthy life and being disproportionately affected by asthma, diabetes and obesity.
"How Healthy Is Your ZIP Code," developed by Sinai Health Systems, is scheduled for Saturday and will feature a forum on the state of black health as well as free screenings for cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes, and asthma. The free event will be held in Mount Sinai Hospital's Glasser Auditorium from 9a.m. until 1p.m.
“Our ZIP codes provide us with a comfort level. We realize that most people don’t tend to leave their area,” said Joseph West, program director for Sinai Health System’s Urban Health Institute, one of the program's organizers. “The next step is to begin to organize in some kind of way in which to help ourselves.”
She said the survey results were so shocking that Sinai made a commitment to not simply catalog the information, but to find a way to turn the statistics around.
“[African-American] mortality rates in itself should give us pause,” said Wesley-Freeman. “Our life expectancy is going down, not up. The data really slaps you in the face. The impact of that data takes your breath away. That’s why we can’t sit idly and watch this happen.”
Sinai officials met with Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, who represents North Lawndale and sits on three health committees, to examine the survey data and try to find a solution. The first thing to do was raise awareness about the communities affected.
“The goal,” said Wesley-Freeman, “is not only to share the information but it’s also to say, ‘OK, we’ve got problems with breast cancer, problems with asthma, problems with obesity, all the issues that we’re going to talk about on Saturday, but also here are resources that are available in your community to help address these issues.”
The number of resources – or lack thereof – is one of the chief causes of the consistent disparities found in the survey areas. Sinai Health System is known for its work in underserved communities, but outlying social factors also play a large part in negatively affecting community health.
“I live in North Lawndale, and we just had the Dominick’s close here,” said West. “There’s no actual grocery store in the community.”
“It’s very difficult because you have to realize what people’s realities are,” he said. “You ask them to make the best choices given a poor set of choices. People are making the best choices they can from an already poor set of choices.”
This is a fact that Steele hopes to change, starting with Saturday’s event.
“We’re going to have tables at this event to talk about nutrition, talk about HIV, talk about fitness and these things,” he said. “I just did a walk-a-thon last week with Lawndale Christian Health Center. We did a 5k walk in Lawndale, the first time it’s ever happened in the community; 400 people participated.”
Sponsors are hoping for a similar turnout on Saturday, and have been going door-to-door to promote it.
“The implications are huge for everybody,” said West, “not just these communities, but for everybody, because you’re talking about sustained public health disparities that lead to sustained high costs in health care.”