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Hyde Park, Woodlawn, South Shore

Violent Crime ‘The Top Health Concern’ For Surveyed South Siders, UChicago Study Finds

South Siders also face "strikingly high" rates of chronic disease, lack access to mental health services and have higher mortality rates for a host of health issues, according to the report.

The University of Chicago Medicine campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood on Dec. 7, 2020.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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HYDE PARK — South Siders surveyed in a recent University of Chicago Medicine study declared violent crime their main health concern while voicing needs for preventative care against cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

Residents of 28 community areas served by UChicago Medicine’s Hyde Park campus also face “strikingly high” rates of chronic disease and lack access to mental health professionals, according to the health provider’s two-year Community Health Needs Assessment.

The results of the study — which used health, demographic and crime data along with interviews and surveys conducted since 2021 — were announced Wednesday.

The report also found:

  • UChicago Medicine’s South Side service area has higher mortality rates for heart disease, cancer, coronary heart disease, accidents, homicides, chronic lower respiratory disease, strokes, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes than the citywide rates.
  • More than 8,500 residents in the service area must travel more than 1 mile in any direction to reach a supermarket.
  • Homicides were the second-leading cause of death citywide for people ages 1-44.

The study’s findings “confirm the health disparities that we have been working to address through renewed investments in cancer care, violence prevention and primary care access, to name a few,” said Dr. Kenneth Polonsky, UChicago’s executive vice president for medical affairs.

Residents’ concerns over violent crime will lead UChicago Medicine officials to continue their work around violence prevention and trauma resiliency, officials said. Existing initiatives include the Violence Recovery Program, Healing Hurt People–Chicago and Southland RISE trauma recovery program.

Southland RISE will announce $150,000 in funding this month, which will be given to support grassroots programs designed to keep youth safe during the summer, officials said.

Gov. JB Pritzker named gun violence a public health emergency last fall.

Credit: UChicago Medicine
A cancer patient receives an infusion at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Cancer also poses a grave threat to South Siders, as they’re twice as likely to die from cancer than residents living “just about anywhere else in the country,” according to the report.

South Side residents are also more likely to face an initial diagnosis of stage 4 or metastatic cancer than residents in other areas of the city. Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the community.

UChicago Medicine plans to build a $633 million cancer center on its Hyde Park campus, which would “significantly expand our capacity and resources for cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and research,” Polonsky said.

The health provider is seeking approval this fall from the state’s Health Facilities and Services Review Board to build the center, which would be the first of its kind in Chicago.

University officials will host a virtual discussion about its cancer center 5:30 p.m. July 27. To register, click here. Residents can also fill out a community survey about the project, available in English and Spanish.

“Work is underway to incorporate the voice of patients and members of the community into the design of the facility, as we look to build a best-in-class, human-centered experience for our cancer center of the future,” said Tom Jackiewicz, president of the University of Chicago Medical Center.

The cancer center would work “side by side” with the new South Side Healthy Community Organization to detect and treat cancer, Dr. Kunle Odunsi, director of the university’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in February.

The community organization is a group of 13 health care providers working to improve South Siders’ access to quality care close to home. It will launch in July.

The Community Health Needs Assessment included a survey of 975 out of the more than 626,000 residents within the South Side service area.

Survey respondents overwhelmingly identified as cisgender women, at a rate of 82 percent. About 16 percent identified as cisgender men; less than 1 percent identified as genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or “other;” and there were no reported transgender participants.

Though the service area’s median income is just more than $40,000 per year, about 74 percent of survey respondents made more than $40,000 annually, and about 30 percent made more than $100,000 annually.

UChicago Medicine uses the report to “guide the hospital on where to commit resources, officials said.

Health officials also released this week a plan for addressing the community’s health priorities through fiscal year 2025.

The plan named two priorities for the coming years: reducing the impacts of chronic disease and building trauma resiliency through trauma-informed health care and increased access to mental health services.

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