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Centering Community is Core to Health Equity

A core value at UI Health is maintaining a community-centered approach to ensure that all endeavors, from research to health care, are effectively oriented toward reducing disparities and promoting health equity.

UIC's academic health enterprise, UI Health, is based in the nation's largest urban healthcare community: the Illinois Medical District (IMD). Centered at the gateway to Chicago's South and West Sides, UI Health is committed to providing high-quality, innovative health and wellness services to some of the nation's most diverse communities. As the state's only public academic health enterprise with seven health science colleges and diverse health professions programs, UI Health is uniquely positioned to train future healthcare leaders, pursue innovative research, and translate our expertise to compassionate patient care for neighborhoods across Chicago, communities throughout Illinois, and beyond. UI Health's commitment to the community is a responsibility to engage our patients and community partners to address health disparities in pursuit of health equity.

The UI Health community remains actively engaged with communities locally and across the state to design health interventions and practices that can improve the health and well-being of patients and their families. Some of the distinct programs and centers that are dedicated to activating communities to take control of their health are listed below.

Meeting: Partners Council for Community Health Heading link

Please join the UI Health Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships for our final conversation on Maternal & Infant Mortality, Thursday, June 15, from 12 noon to 2:00pm CDT. During this meeting we will network, celebrate, and continue to discuss ways we can identify, and address inequities in maternal care, empower women/program participants, and strategize on how we can continue to push towards creating solutions to improve maternal health equity and reducing maternal and infant mortality.


Office of Community Based Practice at Mile Square Health Center Heading link

looking upward at the Mile Square Health Center main location against a clear blue sky

The Office of Community Based Practice (CBP) aims to involve community members, community based organizations, local agencies, researchers, and other stakeholders as partners in the mission to foster equitable access and delivery of comprehensive, quality care for all Chicagoans seeking care at the Mile Square Health Centers (i.e., health care screenings, preventive consultation, diagnostic services, and treatment) and affiliated clinics through research, evaluation, and learning. The overarching goal of CBP is to eradicate health inequities, promote continuum of care, and improve health outcomes.

Community Engagement and Health Equity Office at the UI Cancer Center Heading link

photo of UIC Oncology building on a sunny day

The University of Illinois Cancer Center is the only public university-based cancer center in Chicago dedicated to the pursuit of health equity and study of cancer disparities. The Cancer Center’s Community Engagement and Health Equity Office (CEHE) works to decrease cancer burden and increase access across the cancer care continuum by building relationships with community partners to increase access to cancer screening and care, to disseminate knowledge, and to advocate for meaningful public policy reform.

In 2022, CEHE engaged 10,604 community members through 227 outreach and engagement activities and 140 community partnerships with the aim of to defining and monitoring cancer burden; promoting and conducting community-informed, evidence-based outreach and education; informing and fostering community-engaged research; and supporting the development, implementation and dissemination of policy and advocacy initiatives.

Office of Community Engagement and Health Partnerships Heading link

photo of multi-generational African American family

The Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships (OCEAN-HP) supports unique partnerships that enliven the mission of the University of Illinois at Chicago and engage community-serving organizations in cooperative efforts to improve Chicago communities. OCEAN-HP has a campus-wide focus that extends to all UIC colleges, with a focus on developing, facilitating and sustaining viable and mutually beneficial campus-community partnerships. Major areas of concentration include:

  • Health professional and lay health worker education,
  • Consumer health and wellness education,
  • Community-engaged research, research dissemination and implementation, and
  • Community-based health services including primary and behavioral healthcare services.

Community Health Worker Training: CHW Connect

Community health workers (CHWs) are community members who work with local health care systems to promote health and wellness in their community. As such, CHWs are a vital part of on-the-ground community-based approaches to achieving health equity.

Recognizing the importance of community-centered health programs, UI Health’s CHW Connect program (offered through the Office of Community Engagement and Neighborhood Health Partnerships) supports community health workers with opportunities for networking, collaboration and training. Additionally, CHW Connect provides training for CHW supervisor/managers and technical assistance for organizations interested in implementing CHWs as an effective part of their workforce.

Community Outreach Intervention Projects Heading link

three African-Americans standing next to a large van with

The Community Outreach Intervention Projects (COIP), part of the UIC School of Public Health, was founded in 1986 to address HIV/AIDS, particularly among people who use drugs. Operating from storefront sites in Austin, Humboldt Park, West Englewood, South Chicago, and Uptown, as well as mobile units that serve additional communities, COIP provides street-level interventions for people with substance use disorder, as well as for people with HIV, hepatitis or other infectious diseases associated with substance use. COIP employs the Indigenous Leader Outreach Model, in which former drug users deliver the intervention services and assist in conducting community-based research.

Illinois Heart Rescue Heading link

community members training on CPR mannequins

Launched in 2012, the Illinois Heart Rescue (LIHR) program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine has made great strides in increasing the chances of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest. By training community members in the proper application of CPR, the program ensures that bystanders can intervene and provide life-saving CPR until medical professionals arrive on the scene.

ILHR has trained more than 30,000 Chicagoans in CPR and provided over 50 automated external defibrillators to groups that could not afford them. The program has ensured that a greater number of Black, brown and female mannequins are used in training, part of the program’s goal of reducing disparities in the application of CPR. Marginalized Chicago communities served by the program have seen significant increases in the percentage of cases where bystander CPR was performed, with increases as high as 53%.

Community Health Advocacy Projects Heading link

diverse group of researchers at table together, with laptop computers, collaborating on a project

UI Health faculty are partnering with OSF HealthCare clinicians to develop innovative solutions to health-related problems in urban communities, through the Community Health Advocacy (CHA) program at UIC Innovation. In 2022, more than $480.000 in CHA grants were awarded to support health innovation, with more than $1.7 million awarded overall. Projects selected for funding have focused on developing solutions in these critical areas:

  • Exploring prototypes for the transformation of care and community-based initiatives that address social determinants of health,
  • Improving outcomes and reducing health care disparities, and
  • Increasing access to care and reducing barriers to care for individuals from all racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Community Health Needs Assessment Heading link

photo of African American mother and father with young children on the stoop of their home

UI Health has performed three community health needs assessments to identify and prioritize the health needs in the communities we serve. Reports of the 2013, 2016, and 2019 assessments are available and include discussion of physical and mental health conditions, challenges in accessing care, and the social and economic factors that impact health.