The University of Chicago Medicine contributed $606.9 million in benefits and services to residents of the South Side and Southland areas in fiscal 2021, according to the latest annual report that outlines the academic health system’s investments in and support of the community.
The total investment includes $520.4 million from the University of Chicago Medical Center and $86.5 million from UChicago Medicine Ingalls Memorial, based in Harvey, and extends over 35 neighborhoods within 12 ZIP codes on the city’s South Side and 19 suburbs across 13 south suburban ZIP codes in the Southland. The contribution covers uncompensated care, charity services, unrecoverable patient debt, medical education and research, and other community support.
UChicago Medicine’s 2021 Community Benefit Report highlights programs, partnerships and initiatives aimed at improving health equity and addressing top health priorities in its service areas. Residents in these communities face significantly higher rates of chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, obesity, breast cancer, sexually transmitted infections and HIV, as well as higher incidence of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity.
“As long as the vast health disparities exist in both South Side and Southland communities — where life expectancy can be 30 years shorter than neighborhoods just 10 miles north — we have to be intentional in our pursuit of health equity,” said Brenda Battle, RN, BSN, MBA, UChicago Medicine’s Senior Vice President for Community Health Transformation and its Chief Diversity, Inclusion and Equity Officer. “Through partnerships, data-driven programs and meaningful investment, our academic health system will meet this challenge and work hard to address the most relevant and pressing health concerns in the communities we serve.”
Community benefit programs and activities are stewarded by the Urban Health Initiative, the medical center’s division that works with community organizations on health-related programs, research and services, and guided by the Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA), which are reported every three years. UChicago Medicine’s Community Advisory Council, led by civic and faith leaders, also provides guidance on key community health concerns, including racial disparities and social determinants of health.
The 2018-19 CHNA reported the following health priorities for the University of Chicago Medical Center’s South Side service area: chronic disease (asthma and diabetes), violence prevention and trauma resiliency, as well as social determinants of health — underlying contributors to health disparities and chronic disease such as education level, poverty, unemployment, violence and community safety, access to care and food insecurity. For Southland communities served by Ingalls Memorial, the 2018-19 priorities were chronic disease (asthma, diabetes and heart disease); maternal health and prenatal care; and cancer (breast and prostate). An updated Community Health Needs Assessment will be released in June 2022.
The 2021 Community Benefit Report also summarizes how the South Side-based academic health system responded to the needs of the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, not only through the care provided, but also through programs and partnerships designed to encourage vaccination in Black and brown communities, where vaccination rates were lagging. In 2021, UChicago Medicine treated more than 2,000 patients for COVID-19, performed more than 295,000 tests, administered 134,000 vaccines to more than 69,000 people, and increased COVID-19-related research publications by 36%.
“While the pandemic created significant challenges, our faculty and staff leveraged the health system’s strengths in research, community partnerships and strategic investment to continue to provide the highest standards of clinical care to our patients and community,” said Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, Dean and Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs. “We will continue to pursue innovations and improvements for the way we care for patients and their families, train our next generation of healthcare providers, and invest in the community so that we can effectively address the ongoing crisis caused by health disparities and inequities on the South Side and in the Southland.”
- South Side healthcare transformation: In June 2021, the state granted nearly $150 million in funding over five years to a collaborative of 13 healthcare organizations — made up of UChicago Medicine and other area hospitals, health systems and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) — in partnership with hundreds of community members and leaders representing healthcare interests, grassroots organizations and the faith community. The group incorporated the South Side Healthy Community Organization in September 2021 to transform the ecosystem of health and healthcare on the South Side of Chicago.
- Workforce diversity: The promotion rates for employees who are Black, Indigenous or People of Color (BIPOC) increased 37% workforce-wide, supporting the medical center’s Equity 2025 Plan and efforts to reflect the diversity of the patient population in its workforce and leadership.
- Community health resources: Through the Liaisons in Care (LinC) program, launched in 2021, community health workers provide healthcare support to patients in their homes for such conditions as pediatric asthma, adolescent sickle cell disease, hypertension and diabetes. In 2021, community health workers in the LinC program had 1,140 patient encounters.
Community Health Priorities
- Chronic Disease
- Asthma: Through the South Side Pediatric Asthma Center, 162 community members attended asthma trainings and 775 people participated in asthma-related education events.
- Diabetes: The South Side Fit fitness program conducted 256 fitness sessions and 12 monthly workshops; the Diabetes Education and Empowerment Program held 11 training sessions for 141 attendees.
- Violence Prevention and Trauma Resiliency
- Violence recovery: In fiscal 2021, the Violence Recovery Program (VRP) assisted 2,189 patients, 937 families and 263 children, with 43% of patients receiving one or more support services such as referrals for housing, employment, food access, victim’s compensation and mental health services.
- Trauma programs: The Block Hassenfeld Casdin (BHC) Collaborative for Family Resilience, which provides support to the VRP, gave $100,000 in funding to three community-based organizations for their violence prevention and trauma recovery programs.
- Grants for youth programs: Southland RISE (Resilience Initiative to Strengthen and Empower) awarded $150,000 to 15 grassroots organizations for their summer violence prevention and trauma resiliency programs. This was a 50% increase over the previous year’s awards. Southland RISE is a collaboration between UChicago Medicine, Advocate Health Care and other community groups. It was inspired by U.S. Senator Dick Durbin’s Chicago HEAL (Hospital Engagement, Action and Leadership) program. Since 2019, Southland RISE has awarded $350,000 to 30 community-based organizations for summer youth programs.
Workforce and Community Development
Together with the University of Chicago, UChicago Medicine is the largest private employer on the South Side, with 24% of the total workforce residing in its service area. In fiscal 2021, UChicago Medicine spent $13.7 million with certified minority- and woman-owned construction and construction-related firms through contracts awarded and paid $1.5 million in wages to minority and female construction workers. Between 2001 and 2021, UChicago Medicine has generated $485.6 million in economic benefit for certified minority- and women-owned firms from capital and renovation projects.