Chicago’s West Side has been Rush’s home since 1873. We share our community with a diverse population, culturally rich neighborhoods and other institutions that serve residents all over the city and the region.
But for too long, much of the West Side has been overlooked and under-resourced. People who live in the neighborhoods at the center of Rush’s service area are working through the effects of decades of structural racism and economic deprivation, including higher levels of poverty and unemployment; crowded housing; and lower rates of education and health insurance.
The resulting inequities in health, employment, income, education and other areas have a far-reaching impact on community well-being — an impact starkly illustrated by the fact that life expectancy for a resident of Chicago’s Loop is 85 years, while six miles west the life expectancy for a resident of the West Garfield Park neighborhood is just 69 years.
Together with residents, community leaders, nonprofit organizations and other health care institutions, our goal is to be a catalyst for community health and vitality by dismantling barriers to health, and by promoting health equity both within and outside of Rush.
Rush is already recognized as a national leader in this work — in 2017, the American Hospital Association honored Rush with its “Equity of Care” award in recognition of our efforts to reduce health care disparities and advance diversity and inclusion — but there is much more to do.
While violence is a concern in these low life-expectancy neighborhoods, most of the deaths arise from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and stroke. We also know that rates of serious mental illness are higher in some of these neighborhoods. The good news is that we have the means to intervene and mitigate the structural and social root causes of these diseases.
Patients’ health outcomes are tied not only to the health care they receive, but also to the conditions in the communities where they live. Rush is using its economic power — its status as a community anchor — to improve those conditions by hiring and developing more West Side talent, purchasing more from West Side vendors, investing portions of Rush’s endowment into West Side projects, and engaging our employees to volunteer in West Side neighborhoods. Our Anchor Mission Strategy formalizes our commitment to anchoring community health and economic vitality for eight West Side communities.
The structural barriers to good health are so entrenched that no institution can solve them alone. That’s why Rush is collaborating with West Side residents and other institutions — including health care and education providers, faith communities, businesses and government agencies — in the West Side Total Health Collaborative. By working as partners to address inequities in health care, education, economic vitality and the physical environment, we can make a far greater impact than one organization can make on its own.
Our work in the West Side is just one of the places the Rush system aims to make an impact. System partners including Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital have long commitments to building healthier communities.
The effort at Rush Oak Park Hospital provides coordination of programming, health education and screenings, including the following:
Since 1992, Housing Forward, has transformed the lives of close to 15,000 people by helping them meet their immediate housing and crisis needs, addressing their health and income needs, and transitioning them back to housing stability. Rush Oak Park Hospital has been a steadfast and committed program partner to Housing Forward by providing annual donations of linen and weekly laundry services for the PADS Shelter program that runs September to May each year. The PADS program provides overnight shelter and three daily meals, seven days a week, for 40 to 60 individuals at nine rotating sites in Berwyn, Forest Park, and Oak Park. The program is a gateway for a wide array of supportive services aimed at reducing the length of homelessness for overnight clients and helping them work toward the ultimate goal of achieving and sustaining housing stability.
Our work on the Anchor Mission and the West Side Total Health Collaborative is overseen by the Rush Office of Community Engagement, or OCE. OCE’s mission is to enable and support Rush University Medical Center in fulfilling its commitment to improve the quality of life within Rush’s diverse neighboring communities through initiatives and partnerships. OCE is also responsible for preparing our triennial Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Implementation Plan.
Because we want our work to be transparent, we share our planning process, outline our goals and track our progress in a number of publicly available reports: Our Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Health Implementation Plan — developed in partnership with community members; Rush faculty, students and staff; our colleagues in the Center for Community Health Equity; and the Alliance for Health Equity — cover fiscal years 2017–2019. And our annual Community Benefits Summary tracks our progress toward our CHIP goals during each calendar year.