CHICAGO — West Side United today announced a $6 million investment aimed at closing health gaps and improving economic vitality in Chicago’s west side neighborhoods. To help further its efforts, West Side United (WSU) also announced the American Medical Association (AMA) as the newest member of its collaborative—formed by six of Chicago’s leading hospitals to address inequities in health care, education, economic vitality and infrastructure on the west side. Together, the AMA, Rush University Medical Center, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, AMITA Health, Cook County Health, Sinai Health System, and University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System, along with Illinois Medical District and financial partner Northern Trust, will invest capital in local businesses and organizations serving Chicago’s west side over the next two to five years.

“The investments we are making today with West Side United, the American Medical Association, and other community funding partners will allow us to improve the health of our residents and to drive quality-of-life improvements for our communities that have long been overlooked,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “We thank these partners for responding to our call to action with INVEST South/West and for playing a crucial role in fostering inclusive economic growth for these communities on the West Side. With new city partners on board, this marks another step forward in my administration's commitment to ensuring community-based health care serving all of our residents, regardless of zip code.”

“Our goal is to collaborate with multisector partners to ensure that west side communities, who have been historically disinvested, benefit from local investments that provide affordable housing, corridor redevelopment and capital improvements that promote healthy, safe and economically viable neighborhoods,” said West Side United Executive Director Ayesha Jaco. “We are honored to have the AMA join as a partner committed to addressing inequities and challenges that we can collectively dismantle over the next decade.”

“Right here in Chicago, West Side United and its incredible partner collaborators are addressing economic opportunity, housing, access to healthy food and other social determinants. If left unaddressed, these factors result in negative health outcomes and the vast life expectancy gap we see today between the Loop and west side neighborhoods,” said AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, M.D. “Acknowledging, understanding, and improving social and economic conditions – recognizing that economic vitality and optimal health go hand in hand – is key to closing the life expectancy gap. The work will not be quick, but as part of our ongoing work to address health inequities and improve health outcomes, the AMA is committed to a sustained effort in the area where we have been headquartered since 1888. Through these efforts, we believe Chicago can serve as a model to help other parts of the nation facing similar gaps in life expectancy and health equity across their neighborhoods.”

“The 16-year death gap between the Loop and Chicago’s West Side is unjust, unnatural and must be addressed by improving the economic conditions that drive poor health,” said Rush University Medical Center CEO Dr. Omar Lateef. “Hospitals–the economic engines in the communities they serve-can do just that by directing a very small portion of their investment portfolios to allow thousands of small businesses and community organizations excluded from the traditional financial sector to create jobs and opportunity. But just as physicians work in teams to treat heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes, hospitals must coordinate their efforts with community members, committed leaders like Mayor Lightfoot and progressive organizations like the American Medical Association.”

According to the Democracy Collaborative’s Healthcare Anchor Network, if health systems nationwide redirect even a small portion of their investment assets to place-based investments, billions of dollars would be shifted toward addressing economic and environmental disparities in local communities.

In addition to providing social impact advisory services and a $1.5 million investment, Northern Trust worked with Rush Hospital and West Side United to create an Impact Investment Collaborative focused on lending within Chicago’s west side.

“We congratulate the AMA and the leading Chicago hospitals behind this effort for their leadership and broad view of community needs,” Northern Trust Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael O’Grady said. “Northern Trust has a deep and longstanding commitment to our city since our founding in Chicago 130 years ago. We are proud to align our social impact investing and philanthropy to help bring resources to our city’s South and West sides and create positive sustainable change in historically underserved communities.”

Through its social impact investment collaborative, West Side United will make a $6 million investment this year through four community development financial institutions (CDFIs)—mission driven financial institutions certified by the U.S. Department of Treasury to finance businesses, non-profits, micro enterprises, and affordable housing serving low-income communities. The four selected CDFIs include IFF, the Chicago Community Loan Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and Accion Chicago. The CDFIs will offer loan capital to small businesses and organizations throughout the west side based on the community’s needs, such as improving access to affordable housing and healthy foods, financing local business projects, or supporting job creation efforts and educational programs.

Investments will be deployed in the following neighborhoods: Austin, East Garfield Park, West Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Lower West Side (Little Village), Near West Side, West Town, North Lawndale, and South Lawndale (Pilsen). To date, West Side United’s partners have invested a combined $7.7 million in these west side neighborhoods. As the newest WSU anchor partner, the AMA will invest $2 million over the next two years, beginning with $1 million in 2020 as part of the collaborative’s overall investment this year. The collaborative will continue to seek new partners and encourage continued long-term investment in the west side.

Health inequities are caused and exacerbated by structural and social determinants of health, such as lack of access to quality education, job opportunities, safe housing, health care, reliable transportation, strong social networks and healthy food. These determinants of health inequities reflect decades of lack of adequate investment along with disinvestment that has resulted in concentrated poverty and prevented the development of conditions that allow for wealth building and have prevented west side residents from achieving optimal health.

In addition to its financial investment through the collaborative, the AMA has also committed to numerous other efforts aimed at making a positive impact on the health and well-being of residents living on Chicago’s West Side, which includes working with more local health care institutions and organizations to improve blood pressure control rates and ultimately reduce the number of heart attacks and strokes among patients living on the west side. The AMA also plans to hire interns from west side neighborhoods to further youth career development and participate in local volunteer events, such as wellness walks with Rush, and will explore additional opportunities to lead or sponsor volunteer activities within west side neighborhoods.

Formed in 2017, West Side United’s mission is to improve social, economic, and structural determinants of health, particularly through improving access to care and community resources, improving mental and behavioral health, and preventing and reducing chronic disease. More specifically, West Side United’s primary goal is to reduce the life expectancy gap between Chicago’s Loop and 10 West Side neighborhoods by 50 percent by 2030.


Editor’s Note:  Viewpoint and video from AMA President Patrice A. Harris, M.D.

Media Contact:

Kelly Jakubek

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About the American Medical Association

The American Medical Association is the physicians’ powerful ally in patient care. As the only medical association that convenes 190+ state and specialty medical societies and other critical stakeholders, the AMA represents physicians with a unified voice to all key players in health care.  The AMA leverages its strength by removing the obstacles that interfere with patient care, leading the charge to prevent chronic disease and confront public health crises and, driving the future of medicine to tackle the biggest challenges in health care.