Chicago-based safety-net system Sinai Health is collaborating with DePaul University to develop clinical and community programs to address the city's social and health inequities, the organizations said Monday.
DePaul and Sinai's research arm, Sinai Urban Health Institute, signed a memorandum of understanding to create a new institute to conduct research projects and share educational opportunities focused on identifying evidence-based solutions.
SUHI President Helen Margellos-Anast said representatives from both organizations plan to meet at the end of September to begin work on specific goals, with a more formalized partnership structure coming within a year.
"Our missions are very much aligned, and we are very both focused on social justice issues and on improving health and well-being within Chicago's most vulnerable communities," Margellos-Anast said about the partnership.
For Sinai, partnering with an academic institution will provide the health system with expertise in areas involving factors like economics, education and social issues that are often the root causes for many health inequities. Margellos-Anast said being able to quickly work with DePaul faculty will help Sinai find better solutions for their communities.
"It's really about bringing the best resources to the community" and making a dent in health inequity," Margellos-Anast said.
Sinai will also benefit from DePaul University's data science department and plans to work on clinical solutions and better predictive analytics to identify high-risk patients and communities sooner. The provider can use those models to offer more preventative interventions.
"Outsiders can't come in and find solutions for some of these problems," Margellos-Anast said. "We really need to work with the assets within the community that are most affected to support them and walk with them through the process of trying to solve these issues."
The new institute will build on previous work Sinai and DePaul have done together to address some of Chicago's most pressing social challenges.
DePaul has worked with Sinai as part of the Chicago Gun Violence Research Collaborative, a fellowship program launched in 2016 that brings academic institutions together with healthcare organizations to work on researching the impact of gun violence.
Daniela Stan Raicu, associate provost for research at DePaul, said the collaboration will provide hands-on experience for students and researchers that she felt will help nurture the next generation, helping them develop the skills essential for cutting-edge solutions to health inequalities.
"We are looking forward to taking our current research projects to the next level—one focusing on Chicago gun violence and the other one on understanding how racial inequities in mortality vary in our country's largest cities," Stan Raicu said.
Margellos-Anast said the current social climate that has led to months of protests across the country against racial inequality has only emphasized the need to address health inequities and structural racism where many the social issues are often rooted.
"This is a problem that is now being brought to the limelight of the broader world and the time is now for us to bring all the right partners together, come up with solutions that will truly address all the complexity within some of these issues, and really make an impact," Margellos-Anast said.