Chicago Sun-Times

‘Healthy Chicago 2025’ aims to close life ex­pectancy gap be­tween Black, white res­i­dents

- ama­honey@sun­times.com | @AdamLMa­honey BY ADAM MA­HONEY, STAFF RE­PORTER Health · Public Health · Aging · Society · Canada News · Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen · Lori Lightfoot · Rush University

On Thurs­day, the Chicago De­part­ment of Public Health vir­tu­ally launched a new com­mu­nity health im­prove­ment plan fo­cused on racial and health equity to meet the city’s goal of re­duc­ing the Black-white life ex­pectancy gap.

“Healthy Chicago 2025” is a five-year com­mu­nity health im­prove­ment assess­ment and plan that pro­poses to close the 8.8-year gap be­tween Black and white Chicagoans in one gen­er­a­tion.

Be­tween 2012 and 2017, life ex­pectancy fell for ev­ery­one in the city ex­cept white res­i­dents, ac­cord­ing to the re­port that cited decades of seg­re­ga­tion and sys­temic racism as the un­der­ly­ing cause. Chronic disease is the largest con­trib­u­tor, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, with the city’s en­demic gun vi­o­lence as the sec­ond lead­ing rea­son for the dis­par­ity.

The life ex­pectancy gap be­tween Latino and white peo­ple is only 0.2 years, ac­cord­ing to the re­port. The av­er­age life ex­pectancy is 80.2 years for white res­i­dents, 80.0 years for Lati­nos and 71.4 years for Blacks.

“We all share the vi­sion of a more healthy, just and eq­ui­table Chicago, and that our ZIP code should not de­ter­mine our life ex­pectancy,” said Mayor Lori Light­foot in a state­ment. “That is why I am so ex­cited about the launch of Healthy Chicago 2025 and its frame­work to en­sure that ev­ery res­i­dent has ac­cess to the re­sources they need to live the healthy life they de­serve.”

The health assess­ment was led by the Chicago De­part­ment of Public Health, along with 40 Chicagoans rep­re­sent­ing Chicago’s public health sys­tem and com­mu­nity groups, and in­cludes spe­cific pro­pos­als to in­crease ac­cess to healthy foods, qual­ity health care and hous­ing, and cre­ate safe spa­ces for all Chicagoans.

The four ma­jor goals of the re­port are to trans­form poli­cies and pro­cesses to foster anti-racist, mul­ti­cul­tural sys­tems; strengthen com­mu­nity ca­pac­ity and youth lead­er­ship; im­prove sys­tems of care for pop­u­la­tions most af­fected by in­equities; and fur­ther the health and vi­brancy of neigh­bor­hoods.

The re­port’s re­lease was post­poned to in­clude re­search on the ef­fects of the COVID-19 pan­demic, which dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fects Black, Latino and low-in­come com­mu­ni­ties.

The launch fea­tured a panel dis­cus­sion in­clud­ing Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Al­li­son Ar­wady, along with a recorded mes­sage from Mayor Lori Light­foot and re­marks from com­mu­nity mem­bers and public health work­ers.

Dr. David Ansell, chief equity of­fi­cer at Rush Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter and au­thor of “The Death Gap: How In­equal­ity Kills,” opened the launch with a video pre­sen­ta­tion link­ing health out­comes with racism.

“Struc­tural racism is vi­o­lence,” he said in the video. “It’s crit­i­cally im­por­tant that we name the root cause of ill­ness and death ... that we name struc­tural racism and eco­nomic de­pri­va­tion as the root cause of this life ex­pectancy gap.”

As a re­sult, the re­port names Black, Latino and low-in­come Chicagoans as the pri­mary pop­u­la­tions need­ing sup­port. This in­cludes com­mu­ni­ties dis­pro­por­tion­ately bur­dened by pol­lu­tion, and dis­in­vested and gen­tri­fy­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“We’re be­ing even more ex­plicit in the work and the plan­ning than ever be­fore,” said Ar­wady dur­ing the livestream. “We cer­tainly rec­og­nize that racism is at the heart of many of these in­equities that we are talk­ing about. But we also think it’s im­por­tant to frame this in a pos­i­tive light by imag­in­ing our­selves in a city where all the peo­ple in our com­mu­ni­ties have power, are free from op­pres­sion and are strength­ened by eq­ui­table ac­cess to re­sources, en­vi­ron­ments and op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote op­ti­mal health and well-be­ing.”

The city’s plan also hopes to de­crease how of­ten peo­ple are ex­posed to vi­o­lence and “in­crease per­cep­tions of safety and po­lice ac­count­abil­ity.”

Ar­wady high­lighted the im­por­tance of this plan as Chicago and the rest of the coun­try be­gin to un­der­stand the im­por­tance of public health.

“The pan­demic has shown ev­ery­one how im­por­tant public health is, and this mo­ment is im­por­tant for us to ad­dress the in­equal­i­ties in these life out­comes,” she said. “This is all a part of build­ing a uni­fy­ing and long-last­ing move­ment in Chicago. We need to use this mo­ment to raise our public health voice.”

 ?? SUN-TIMES FILES ?? Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Al­li­son Ar­wady
SUN-TIMES FILES Health Com­mis­sioner Dr. Al­li­son Ar­wady

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