Excellence is just the beginning.

Rush in the Community

Working for Health Equity

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.

Health disparities lead to life expectancy gaps

Life expectancy varies by neighborhood, as in the 16-year gap between the Loop and West Garfield Park illustrated below.

While violence is a concern in these low–life expectancy neighborhoods, data show that most of the deaths there 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: We have the means to intervene and mitigate the structural and social root causes of these diseases.

A West Side anchor institution

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.

Partnering for healthy 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 West Side United. 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.

A whole system committed to service

Our work on Chicago’s West Side is just one of the places where Rush aims to make an impact. Our system partners, including Rush Copley Medical Center and Rush Oak Park Hospital, have their own long-term commitments to building healthier communities.At Rush Oak Park Hospital, community programs include the following:

  • Project Lifestyle Change, a free year-long education program for people with prediabetes. Since 2010, more than 700 program graduates have learned about healthy eating and exercise habits.
  • The Rush Surplus Project, Rush’s largest food distribution initiative, which originated at Rush Oak Park Hospital. The project donates surplus food from Rush’s cafeterias to local nonprofits that feed the hungry; it was such a success upon its 2015 launch in Oak Park that we expanded it to Rush University Medical Center in 2017.
  • A partnership with Top Box Foods, a Chicago-based social business that provides affordable boxes of high-quality fresh produce to Rush’s “first community” of employees. In 2017, the first year of the program, employees picked up more than 1,100 boxes of healthy food at Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush University Medical Center.
  • Free screening mammograms for hundreds of women who lack health insurance, supported by grants from the Chicago Department of Public Health and a private foundation.
  • Free, quarterly Courage to Quit smoking cessation classes, which combine a cognitive behavioral approach with counseling and education about medication that can help smokers quit.
  • Donations of linens and laundry services for the PADS shelter program at Housing Forward, which provides overnight shelter and meals at nine rotating sites in Berwyn, Forest Park, and Oak Park. The program is a gateway for an array of supportive services that help people achieve housing stability.

The Office of Community Engagement and Practice: Committed to community

Our work on the Anchor Mission and West Side United 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 improving the quality of life in Rush's diverse neighboring communities. 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.