An aerial view of the University of Chicago Medicine’s campus in Hyde Park. | Provided photo

Violence rises to top in South Side health needs assessment

SHARE Violence rises to top in South Side health needs assessment
SHARE Violence rises to top in South Side health needs assessment

Violence, cancer and sexually transmitted diseases are at the top of a federally mandated survey of public health challenges facing South Side residents, along with diabetes, childhood asthma and obesity.

The Community Health Needs Assessment, conducted from late fall 2015 through spring 2016 by University of Chicago Medicine, finds residents in 12 ZIP codes pleading for help in grappling with mental and physical health aspects of the city’s spiraling violence.

The violence and higher incidences of sexually transmitted diseases and HIV mortality rates, were newly identified challenges since a previous assessment in 2013, according to a report to be published Wednesday.

The assessment — which is required of all nonprofit hospitals every three years under the 2010 Affordable Care Act — had showed adult cancer, diabetes and pediatric asthma and obesity also among the top six challenges in 2013, along with access to care issues.

“Two other needs came out of this year’s assessment as a high priority, for both adults and pediatric. With violence, what the community said they needed was more access to mental health and resiliency support, and trauma care,” said Brenda Battle, vice president of care delivery innovation and chief diversity officer at the hospital, which has begun a $269 million project that includes a Level 1 adult trauma center and cancer care center.

Brenda Battle | Provided photo

Brenda Battle | Provided photo

“Resiliency is about how do you continue your day to day living if you’ve been impacted by trauma? How do you avoid being afraid to live a normal life? It is about what do you do the next day, about living life and getting through it,” Battle said.

The assessments guide hospitals in developing programs to better address socio-economic health care inequities.

Education and screening efforts growing out of the 2013 report saw little progress in tackling some of those health issues in U. of C. Medicine’s service area, encompassing six of the city’s 11 poorest communities. Despite concerted efforts by the hospital and community-based entities it funded as partners, statistics remain stagnant, or have worsened, on some of those issues.

The 2016 assessment found a 4 percent increase in the number of women age 50-plus who got mammograms, since the last assessment; a 10 percent increase in adults ages 50 to 75 screened for colorectal cancer; and a 2.5 percent increase in children diagnosed with asthma, a positive.

“That’s what we wanted to see, because before, those kids were not being screened for asthma,” Battle said. “Asthma rates in our community are ridiculously high. In Englewood for example, it’s like 59 percent, compared to the national rate of 12 percent.”

Diabetes statistics barely moved, from 13.4 to 13.3 percent; and pediatric obesity inched upward, to 44 percent from 40.1 percent.

“I think there’s a direct correlation to the kids not engaged in physical activity, not going outside to play,” Battle said. “So we’ve seen some gains, but we’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

The hospital plans to address the newly identified priorities through increased HIV and STD screening and care networks targeting youths ages 15 to 24, and the LGBTQ community, populations most affected. Residents’ need for violence support will be addressed by training community entities in post-trauma case management and comprehensive trauma programming at U. of C. Medicine’s trauma center, which is expected to open in Hyde Park in 2018.

“Violence is a public health issue. We did see it raised in 2013, but it did not reflect among the top priorities. This time it was there. This time it was a priority,” Battle said. “I’m not surprised. We know the South and West sides of Chicago are where some of the highest rates of violence exist. It wasn’t that violence wasn’t a high priority before. What’s interesting is that the community really wants help in dealing with it. They’re asking for it now.”

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