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AMA joins collaborative to improve health on the West Side

3/25/2020, noon | Updated on 3/25/2020, noon

AMA joins collaborative to improve health on the West Side

BY TIA CAROL JONES

American Medical Association is now a partner in a mission to improve health outcomes and close health gaps on the West Side of Chicago.

Recently, West Side United announced a $6 million investment which would continue a mission to address health inequities, with low-interest loan funding allocated to local businesses and organizations, focused on economic development and quality-of-life improvements, as well as health care initiatives to communities on the West Side.

Those communities include East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Austin, Humboldt Park, Little Village, North Lawndale and South Lawndale.

West Side United is a collaboration of organizations and people that was created in 2017, with a mission to make the West Side a vibrant and healthier place for its residents.

The collaborative includes Rush University Medical Center, Lurie Children’s Hospital, Cook County Health, Illinois Medical District and Sinai Health System. Northern Trust is one of West Side United’s financial partners.

The American Medical Association, as a new member, will invest $2 million in loan funding during the next two years. It will start with $1 million this year.

“West Side United and its incredible partner collaborators are addressing economic opportunity, housing, access to healthy food and other social determinants. If left unaddressed, these factors result in negative health outcomes and the vast life expectancy gap we see today between the Loop and West Side neighborhoods,” American Medical Association CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, wrote in a release.

“Acknowledging, understanding and improving social and economic conditions – recognizing that economic vitality and optimal health go hand-in-hand – is key to closing the life expectancy gap. As part of our ongoing work to address health inequities and improve health outcomes, the AMA is committed to a sustained effort in the area. Through these efforts, we believe Chicago can serve as a model to help other parts of the nation facing similar gaps in health equity across their neighborhoods.”

As part of its partnership, AMA also has committed to working with more local health care institutions and organizations to improve blood pressure control rates and to reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes. It also will hire interns from neighborhoods on the West Side in an effort to further youth career development.

West Side United’s $6 million investment is in addition to $7.7 million investments from its partners, as part of its social impact investment collaborative.

Businesses and other organizations will be able to apply for loans during the next two to five years. And, the loans will be provided through the Chicago Community Loan Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corp, Accion Chicago and IFF. These community development financial institutions will provide the funding based on the community’s needs – supporting job creation efforts and educational programs, improving access to affordable housing and healthy foods and financing local business projects.

“Our goal is to collaborate with multisector partners to ensure that West Side communities, who have been historically disinvested, benefit from local investments that provide affordable housing, corridor redevelopment and capital improvements that promote healthy, safe and economically viable neighborhoods,” said West Side United Executive Director Ayesha Jaco. “We are honored to have the AMA join as a partner committed to addressing inequities and challenges that we can collectively dismantle over the next decade.”

This kind of collaboration and investment were also part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s goal to inject funds into disinvested communities on the South and West sides of the city.

“The investments we are making today with West Side United, the American Medical Association and other community funding partners will allow us to improve the health of our residents and to drive quality-of-life improvements for our communities that have long been overlooked,” Lightfoot wrote in a release. “With new city partners on board, this marks another step forward in my administration’s commitment to ensuring community-based health care serving all of our residents, regardless of zip code.”