Rush Partners with Sen. Durbin’s Initiative to Reduce Violence

Chicago HEAL joins Rush’s community programs and investments with other hospitals’ efforts

In the past few years, Rush University Medical Center has made an increased effort to address the socioeconomic conditions on Chicago’s West Side that contribute to poor health among residents there. Now Rush has partnered with nine other major Chicago hospitals on a groundbreaking new initiative to reduce violence and improve health in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods.

Initiated and supported by U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Chicago HEAL (Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership) Initiative is an action plan of tangible commitments to reduce gun violence, heal the physical and mental trauma that violence inflicts on victims, increase well-paying jobs and create other economic opportunities in the neighborhoods the hospitals’ serve.

“Not only do Chicago’s world class hospitals care for physical wounds and mental health challenges inflicted by violence, they are very often the largest employers and the most powerful drivers of economic opportunity in their neighborhoods.  What I learned from months of meetings and conversations is that these hospitals are already strongly invested in making the people and neighborhoods they serve healthier and safer,” Durbin said. “But it was also clear that these hospitals can make an even bigger impact by working together towards common goals,”

Hospitals will try to address violence’s root causes

Under HEAL, Rush and the other hospitals are committing publicly to work together, and with a broad range of community organizations, to tackle the root causes of gun violence. HEAL is premised on the notion that truly reducing violence requires more than just world-class health care in the hospital setting to treat physical wounds — but a community-focused prevention strategy that recognizes hospitals as often the largest employers and leaders of neighborhood initiatives to address underlying root causes. 

HEAL is focusing on 18 Chicago neighborhoods most plagued by violence, inequality, and poverty, including: Auburn Gresham; Brighton Park; Greater Englewood; Fuller Park; Gage Park; Grand Boulevard; Greater Grand Crossing; New City/Back of the Yards; Altgeld Gardens; South Chicago; South Shore; Washington Park; Austin; East Garfield Park; Humboldt Park; North Lawndale; South Lawndale/Little Village; and West Garfield Park.

The formal inception of the Chicago HEAL Initiative began in January 2018, when Durbin convened a meeting between hospital executives to discuss how they can better coordinate efforts to reduce violence.  The Chicago HEAL Initiative reflects months of community feedback from residents about what they want from leading institutions and provides a roadmap for sustained, coordinated effort.

“Just as physicians address the causes of an illness and not just the symptoms, hospitals are community anchors and well positioned to address the social and economic root causes of violence,“ said Dr. Larry Goodman, CEO of the Rush System and of Rush University Medical Center.  “The economic development needed in our neighborhoods to help stem the violence we see today demands action as a whole city, working together. Rush and our West Side United partners are proud to be part of that effort.”

Rush already was working on many HEAL priorities

In fact, Rush already has been doing much of the work called for by the HEAL Initiative. Early last year, the Medical Center undertook what’s known as the Rush Anchor Mission – a commitment to be an anchor of community health and economic vitality for eight West Side communities, with the goals of increasing life expectancy, improving quality of life and reducing hardship. Those communities include four of the neighborhoods on which HEAL is focusing – East and West Garfield Park and North and South Lawndale – plus the Austin, Lower West Side, Near West Side and West Town neighborhoods.

In its last fiscal year, Rush set and met a goal of hiring 16 percent of new employees from these eight neighborhoods, with more than 300 of the residents of these communities among Rush’s approximately 2,000 new employees hired last year. Rush has a goal of hiring 1,000 people from these neighborhoods over three years.

Also in fiscal year 2018, Rush reallocated $400 thousand of its purchasing to vendors in the anchor communities. The Medical Center has set a goal to increase purchasing from local vendors by 5 percent during this fiscal year. As part of this effort, Rush is working to increase the use of local caterers and held a catering vendor fair on its campus this summer.

The Medical Center has begun making a planned $6 million in impact investments in the West Side over three years. In addition, Rush led the formation of West Side United, a collaboration between Chicago health care institutions, civic leaders and community residents that to address health disparities.

In addition, Rush is preparing young Chicagoans for careers in health care through a partnership with Richard T. Crane Medical Preparatory High School, located near the Rush campus. Crane student participate in onsite, experiential learning curricula at Rush, and Rush University faculty members, students and staff volunteer to provide additional mentoring, tutoring and summer internships to prepare the students to make the transition to secondary education. In addition, last year Rush began offering an innovative information technology internship program to prepare students from Crane to work in health care IT.

Technology also is playing a key part in Rush’s efforts to address health disparities. The Medical Center recently implemented an innovative technology partnership and screening protocol to identify patients who lack sufficient food, housing and other needs and match them with resources that can help.

In addition to Rush, the following hospitals are involved in Chicago HEAL:

  • Advocate Christ Medical Center
  • AMITA Health’s Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center             
  • Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago   
  • Cook County Health and Hospital System
  • Loyola University Medical Center
  • Northwestern Memorial Hospital
  • Sinai Health System 
  • University of Chicago Medical Center   
  • University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences Systems