The University of Chicago News Office
February 11, 1998 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
(773) 702-4195
sabrinamiller@uchicago.edu
 

Health report: Monitoring pulse of Chicago

Although mortality rates are dropping nationwide, many urban areas, including Chicago, are lagging far behind the trend, according to the Winter 1997 Chicago Health Care Report.

The quarterly report--the first to be issued by the Chicago Health Policy Research Council, which is based at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration's Center for Health Administration Studies--reveals that, after accounting for the unique mix of Chicago's population in terms of race, age and gender, the average number of deaths in the city is 21 percent higher than the national average. Nearly 20 percent of Chicago communities have mortality rates 50 percent higher than the U.S. average.

African-American men fare particularly poorly when compared to similar groups nationwide. "The death rate for young African-American men living in all but a handful of Chicago communities is dramatically higher than for those elsewhere in the United States," according to the report. The overall death rate for African-American male Chicagoans is 51 percent higher than the death rate for African-American men nationwide. In one neighborhood, Fuller Park, the death rate for African-American men is 340 percent higher than the national average.

Each report will provide current information on the changing structure of the region's health system, an update on pending and approved policy decisions, and a description and analysis of health financing issues in the region and state, said Richard Sewell, Executive Director of the council.

The inaugural publication contains a "health scorecard" for the city that will serve as a baseline not only to monitor the well-being of people in the Chicago area, but also to provide a benchmark and indicators of the overall performance of the area's healthcare system. The publication includes articles on excessive mortality rates, the health of Chicago communities and a federal-state program to help uninsured children.

Officials of the council and the Center for Health Administration Studies hope the quarterly report will be used as a tool by advocates, health care providers and policy-makers to make informed decisions about the use of health care dollars in the region, said Edward Lawlor, Associate Professor in the School of Social Service Administration and Director of the Center for Health Administration Studies.

For example, Illinois is currently eligible for $122.5 million in federal money to increase health insurance for Illinois children. The report could help guide policy-makers in the best use of that money, he said.

To "expand notions of health beyond standard measures of mortality and morbidity," one of the report's regular features will be a discussion of the health of "sentinel communities." Each quarter, the council report will track developments in the Chicago neighborhoods of Lakeview, South Lawndale and Englewood--chosen for their socioeconomic diversity--and review statistics that have a bearing on health.

For the first report, researchers looked at the amount of violence faced by people in each of those communities. Both South Lawndale and Englewood experience rates of reported violent crimes significantly higher than the national average. In future issues, the council will look at how these sentinel communities fare in such areas as education and voter turnout.

 

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