Research funding to accelerate South Side health and wellness community-mapping project

Research funding to accelerate South Side health and wellness community-mapping project

February 11, 2011

The University of Chicago Medical Center announced $500,000 in new public and private-sector support that will help researchers, in partnership with South Side residents, take the next steps in a groundbreaking effort to compile and publish maps of all of the area's health, wellness and commercial resources. Mapping includes businesses, public agencies, churches, social-service organizations and health-related facilities.

The resource-mapping project, launched with internal funding in 2009, is the first step of a larger effort known as the South Side Health and Vitality Studies (SSHVS). Led by health experts from the University of Chicago, working closely with community members and civic leaders, the SSHVS is a large-scale, long-term effort to assess, monitor and enhance the health of those who live on the South Side of Chicago.

"A journey of a thousand miles should begin not with a single step but with a solid map," said Daniel Johnson, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and a director of the asset-mapping project. "These maps will set the course for our long-term efforts to improve the region's overall health."

Benefits of Mapping
The maps will help establish a baseline for community wellness and discover all the assets and barriers to good health for the approximately 870,000 people living in the 34 neighborhoods that make up the South Side of Chicago. The maps are posted on a website so that people who want to learn about nearby services can find out what is available in these communities. As the project moves forward, the maps will be continuously updated.

"This project is ambitious," said Stacy Tessler Lindau, MD, associate professor of obstetrics and medicine at the University of Chicago and director of the SSHVS. "It was designed to collect information about all the businesses and services in a 95 square-mile area, to keep this information up to date, and to make it widely available to the public."

The data are of value to individuals seeking services, to health care providers, to business owners and community leaders, as well as to researchers interested in understanding which neighborhood resources are most critical for health.

Maps of 11 neighborhoods have been completed and posted. They include more than 4,600 establishments in Auburn Gresham, East Side, Englewood, Grand Boulevard, Hyde Park, Kenwood, South Chicago, South Shore, Washington Park, West Englewood and Woodlawn. Community leaders and residents are already using them to push for better access to social services, medical clinics or grocery stores, and to bolster grant applications for community projects.

"The opportunity to be a part of the mapping project has meant a great deal to our community," said Ernest Sanders, NCP Manager and Director, Communications & Outreach for the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation, which assembled teams of young people from the community to map their neighborhood and nearby Englewood.

"It brought summer employment for several of our local youths with limited access to jobs," Sanders added. "It kept them engaged in a beneficial summer experience instead of being idle with nothing to do, a situation that could lead to trouble. Performing place-based mapping and hints of service-based mapping exposed our residents and business owners to local resources we were not aware of and new places to learn, play and shop right here in the neighborhood."

The maps highlight strengths in each community and reveal where services are lacking. In the comparatively affluent Hyde Park community, for example, the map makers found 28 non-fast-food restaurants. Its less well-to-do neighbor to the west, Washington Park, they found only one--a family-owned breakfast spot known for its biscuits with sausage gravy.

Benefits of Expanded Funding and Partnerships
The Chicago Community Trust will support systems for updating and enhancing the maps and for disseminating the information to the communities involved.

The National Institutes of Health will support mapping as part of the Chicago Health and Aging Services Exchange. This internet-based system will use map data to help South Siders in need of services, such as health care, connect with the organizations, such as local clinics, best suited to provide them.

Chicago-based PepsiCo Global Nutrition Group (GNG) will extend existing mapping and related analysis to many more communities. "This is an extension of the Company's dedication to encouraging people to make informed choices and address nutrition challenges by investing in a healthier future," said Dr. Mehmood Khan, CEO of GNG and PepsiCo Chief Scientific Officer and head of PepsiCo Global R&D.

Three of PepsiCo's brands–Quaker Oats, Tropicana and Gatorade–are headquartered in Chicago.

"We are committed to improving the health of communities in Chicago and around the globe," said Khan. "As the world's second-largest food and beverage business, PepsiCo and GNG are dedicated to encouraging people to make informed choices and committed to playing a positive role in the way public health challenges are addressed. Public-private collaborations like SSHVS are essential to identifying and eliminating barriers to healthy living in our communities."

SSHVS researchers and their community partners are completely independent of the sponsors and retain full control of all aspects of the project, such as designing the studies, collecting the data, performing the analysis and disseminating results.

"As Chicago's own Ida B. Wells said, 'Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,' and the work of the South Side Health and Vitality Studies asset-mapping project is exactly the type of vigilance we need to promote freedom from need for the communities that I represent," said 20th Ward Alderman Willie B. Cochran. "I applaud the wisdom of the Trust, NIH and PepsiCo in supporting the development and dissemination of a roadmap that accurately identifies and tracks resources and gaps in services, and will clearly help to guide community organizations, institutions, and residents to a better way of life."

"We ultimately agreed that the scope of our ambitions for health and vitality on the South Side requires support from all sectors," said Lindau. "The diversity of our teams reflects the shared value of this project."