Chicago Hospitals Strive to Increase Life Expectancy on West Side

On Chicago’s West Side, the average life expectancy is just 69 years.

In the Loop, about 7 miles east, life expectancy jumps to 85 years. (Nationwide, the average life expectancy was 78 years as of 2016, according to a report published in December by the National Center for Health Statistics.)

This 16-year “death gap” was uncovered by Rush University Medical Center after a survey of West Side communities the hospital serves. Darlene Hightower, Rush’s associate vice president of community engagement and practice, said the lower life expectancy goes deeper than gun violence or any other single factor.

“When you look at the health data, people are dying from cancer and cardiovascular disease,” Hightower said. “We also know that health outcomes come from other things, like education, jobs, the neighborhood environment you live in and whether it’s safe and you have food available to you. It’s a combination of things.”

In order to fight these problems, Rush helped initiate West Side United – a collective of local hospitals, nonprofits and government agencies committed to cutting in half that death gap by 2030.

West Side United is taking a holistic approach to that goal by aiming to provide better access to health services – including mental health care – making sure there are healthy and affordable food sources available and providing better employment and educational opportunities.

Hightower joins us in discussion.

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