Rush for the past five years has used its power as an economic engine to try and improve the health of communities.
The move came after a community health needs assessment found the life expectancy of residents living in the more affluent downtown area was 16 years greater than those living 7 miles away in the poorer community on the city’s West Side. Chronic diseases, not violence, was the leading cause for the wide gap.
Rush began by adopting an “anchor mission” that included hiring more individuals from within the community, purchasing from local businesses, and supporting projects that focused on creating more affordable housing, greater access to nutritious food, and economic revitalization, Dr. David Ansell, senior vice president of community health equity at Rush, explained.
Rush reached out to the six major healthcare organizations in the area to form West Side United in 2018, an initiative designed to close the life expectancy gap between low- and higher-income communities by 50% by 2030.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Ansell said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot reached out to Rush and West Side United for assistance in addressing the disproportionate mortality rate occurring within predominantly Black communities. In April 2020, Rush joined community groups and other healthcare providers to take part in the city’s racial equity rapid-response team that focused on expanding testing, conducting contact tracing, and distributing personal protective equipment in Black and Brown communities.