Reporting on health disparities in Chicago

Chicago’s history of health disparity, disinvestment, and future avenues of investigation

This is a guest post by Sam Moilanen and Lily Lowndes, members of the Chicago Undercovered class that prioritizes reporting on Chicago’s South and West side communities.

It is common knowledge that there are health disparities in the city of Chicago.

According to 2021 data from the Chicago Department of Public Health, the life-expectancy gap between Black and non-Black Chicagoans is 9.2 years. This is due to a variety of health-related reasons unjustly causing higher mortality rates among Black residents including increased rates of chronic diseases, homicide and infant-mortality rates, and increased number of deaths due to HIV and opioid overdoses.

When asking why these disparities exist, one can determine the answer is simple but the solution is much more complicated. Chicago is known as one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. This was not by accident and has been negatively affecting Black and Brown residents in Chicago for decades.

As a result of redlining and other past attempts to disinvest and segregate minority communities in Chicago, Black residents now face a variety of health disparities that continue to affect their communities today. Because Black residents in South and West Side neighborhoods were isolated from economic opportunities in the past, their neighborhoods are excluded from receiving appropriate healthcare services to this day.

This historical racism and divestment was further exposed during the Covid-19 pandemic. Neighborhoods with majority Black and Brown populations were continuously recording lower vaccination rates than the neighborhoods with majority white populations, and Black and Brown Chicagoans were dying at faster rates from Covid-19 due in part to a lack of sufficient health care in their neighborhoods.

There are many different directions student reporters can take when reporting on health disparities in Chicago. One direction could be to look at the top five neighborhoods experiencing higher mortality rates due to health-related causes, and the top five neighborhoods with the lowest health-related mortality rates. Once they compare the top five neighborhoods from each category, they might be able to dive deeper into the characteristics that might influence these rates. Is it neighborhood demographics, location, disinvestment, economic instability, higher poverty rates, or lack of affordable healthcare that cause such recognizable disparities?

From a historical lens, students can also dive into how Chicago has ostracized certain minority communities by not allocating the same healthcare resources that are provided in other parts of the city.

Students could also look at differences in funding for schools, hospitals, public parks, or other infrastructure to better analyze how disinvestment plays a role in the lack of health security.

With this information, student reporters can explain the factors that play into health disparities in Chicago neighborhoods.

Published by spjonadepaul

Official website for DePaul University's Society of Professional Journalists chapter.

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