Humboldt Park has long been the site of some of the city’s most adverse health outcomes, with obesity, diabetes and depression all above national rates.
But the West Side community is taking steps to reverse that trend with a new wellness center.
“This facility will be the first wellness center in the Humboldt Park community and will be transformative in advancing our residents’ health equity and well-being,” said Humboldt Park Health President and CEO José R. Sanchéz.
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The three-story, 45,500-square-foot building is going up at Division and Richmond streets, just south of the park. It will have a swimming pool, indoor track, fitness center, rehabilitation center and community space.
According to a 2018 Sinai Urban Health Institute survey, 47% of Humboldt Park adults are obese, compared with 29.5% nationally; 13% of adults in the neighborhood have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with 9% nationally; and 18% of adults have current symptoms of depression, compared with 7% nationally.
“Diabetes is a combination of many conditions: obesity, lack of exercise, food consumption and so forth,” Sanchéz told the Chicago Sun-Times. “A center like this will be able to offer activities that will mitigate and prevent diabetes to some extent.”
Sanchéz highlighted the impact the rehabilitation center could have for those facing hip or knee replacement surgery or for those who have experienced a stroke.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony for the center last week.
“Health equity isn’t just about hospitals and emergency care,” Pritzker said at the ceremony. “It’s about the social determinants of health, too. Today, we take another giant step forward to address health inequities in a holistic manner.”
Twenty million dollars of the projected $24 million cost for the center will come from the Rebuild Illinois bill Pritzker signed in 2019. An additional $2.5 million is coming from city grants, said Maurice Cox, commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development.
“What we’re looking at is a Humboldt Park medical district that is now going to be anchored by this Wellness Center,” Cox said.
The facility’s modern look, with a curved green exterior and solar panels, was produced by local architectural firm JGMA.
Illinois state Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas, D-Chicago, also spoke at the groundbreaking.
“La comunidad cura, la cultura cura,” she said, invoking Humboldt Park’s longstanding role as a hub for the Puerto Rican and Latino community. “The community, the culture cures. This project is a manifestation of that particular phrase, and it’s more than just a phrase because it’s endemic in us.”
The wellness center is set to open in 18 months.
Michael Loria is a staff reporter at the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster the paper’s coverage of communities on the South and West sides.