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The Mechanics
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Neighborhoods Tue Aug 16 2011

Chicago's Public Health and Violence Troubles Still Segregated

Chicago has over 200 neighborhoods within 77 "community areas." Guess which have the least access to "basic health resources"?

You probably didn't think of the Near North Side.

A new study by Northwestern University and the Chicago Department of Public Health demonstrate what most people already know: the South and Southwest areas of Chicago are painfully deficient in access to the tools for a healthy life.

The study tracked the prevalence of childhood obesity, breast cancer, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, motor vehicle injury and death, as well as access to parks, good medical care, and affordable fresh fruit and produce.

The allocation of resources, in some cases, is inversely proportional to the highest incidence of the problem. For example, although the South and Southwest Sides have the highest incidence of HIV infection, you can find the greatest number of test clinics in the north regions.

According to the MedicalXpress article linked above, Romana Hasnain-Wynia, coauthor and director of Northwestern's Center for Healthcare Equality, explains that "residents' health suffers and health care costs rise when people live in unhealthy neighborhoods. Everyone in the city is affected when people can't easily find a doctor, go for a walk or buy a piece of fruit."

Although not usually considered a public health problem, the epidemic of violence on the South and Southwest Sides contributes significantly to deteriorating health conditions there. The recently released documentary The Interrupters, which is about community peacemaker-group CeaseFire, shines a light on microlocal efforts trying to address the problem.

Co-producer of the documentary Alex Kotlowitz, an "accidental" Chicagoan and author of There Are No Children Here, addressed the problem of urban violence in Chicago at Northwestern in 2009. In this talk, he highlights the glaringly disproportionate amount of murders committed on the South and Southwest Sides relative to the rest of the city, and clearly indicates that this, too, is a matter of public health - for all of us.

Alex Kotlowitz on Facing Urban Violence in Chicago from Northwestern News on Vimeo.

Now there's some food for thought.

(Reviews of Kotlowitz' film can be found here, and here.)

 
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