CHICAGO – More than 150 people attended an impassioned and informative town hall event on the critical issue of health equity on Chicago’s West Side on Nov. 2 at Malcolm X College in Chicago.
The town hall was the first public event for Wellness West (formerly West Side Health Equity Collaborative), a coalition of West Side organizations coming together to create a transformational continuity of care among hospitals, community health centers, community mental health centers, social services, and other critical points of care.
U.S. Congressman Danny Davis, Malcolm X College President David A. Sanders and U.S. Congresswomen-elect Delia Ramirez provided opening remarks. The panel of health equity experts included: Dr. Aida Giachello, Research Professor, Department of Preventive Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine; Dr. Sharon Irons, Medical Director, Ambulatory Services, Cook County Health; Kim Jay, Senior Community Health Worker, Sinai Urban Health Institute; Dr. Art Jones, Chief Medical Officer, Medical Home Network; Kimberly McCullough-Starks, Deputy Director, Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services; and Dr. Jairo Mejia, Chief Medical Officer, Access Community Health Network. The program was moderated by Dorothy Tucker of CBS-2 Chicago and Aileen Ocana of Univision Radio Chicago.
“The reality is that racial disparities are very much prevalent in all aspects of our healthcare system,” said Representative Ramirez, who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives on November 8. “From coverage and access to treatment and disparate health outcomes. Just as we have a lot of work to do to address disparities embedded in the fabric of our country, our health care system is not immune to these challenges created by centuries of systemic racism, disinvestment, and equitable treatment. This is why this [town hall] gives me so much hope.”
The six panelists covered a full spectrum of topics related to health equity, including clinical innovations, community collaboration, the latest research on health equity, and the role of the public sector in stimulating innovation in health equity. The panel discussion was followed by audience engagement, where attendees spoke of their personal experiences and perspectives.
Across virtually every health metric, the West Side of Chicago suffers disproportionately from higher rates of chronic disease, acute ailments and mental illness … the result of historic disinvestments, structural racism and inadequacies in the current health and social service system.
Wellness West was established to address this inequity. The Wellness West coalition consists of over 40 proven, mission-driven health care and social service providers who have deep experience serving the diverse communities of the West Side. Founding partners of Wellness West include: Access Community Health Network, Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Centers, Cook County Health, Habilitative Systems, Humboldt Park Health, The Loretto Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, and Sinai Chicago. Wellness West is funded by the Illinois Healthcare Collaboratives (HTC) initiative of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services that is investing in closing gaps in care and increasing health equity for our state.
The full town hall program is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9F-xDrxrpQ.
More information about Wellness West is available at www.wellnesswest.org