Rocha described the institute as a think tank—one which would take concrete actions to address problems in low-income communities in the county, including housing and food insecurity and poor maternal health outcomes.
While the institute will work on such so-called social determinants of health, Rocha called for a rethinking of that moniker. He said when social determinants are brought down to the individual patient level, both patient and provider can think that their health and healthcare options are already predetermined.
Download Modern Healthcare’s app to stay informed when industry news breaks.
"We cannot resolve underlying factors of poverty and racism, but we can find ways to keep them from impacting health outcomes," Rocha said.
Cook County Health's efforts to keep people safe and administer hundreds of thousands of vaccinations and tests for COVID showed what was possible by taking a determined, multipronged approach, Rocha said, which the Change Institute looks to continue. Cook County Health is nearing its millionth vaccination, he said.
"When we concentrate as a country, as a global society, we can make things happen," he said of the pandemic effort. "We can't let it go, because we have many other silent conditions" that will require keeping the same energy going.
Though details on the work of the institute were scarce, Cook County Health will announce efforts to improve mental healthcare and maternal and infant health outcomes in the coming weeks. Rocha said the institute will provide data and information about healthcare in the community, and he called upon businesses, community and religious organizations, higher education and other healthcare organizations to join the effort.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.