Students are going door-to-door this summer in several South Side neighborhoods gathering critical information about local businesses, community groups and government agencies.
It's part of a program called MAPSCorps. Students use a "map app" on their cell phones to input the data immediately. They are finding both surprises as well as disappointments.
"One of the purposes of MAPSCorps is to like to see the assets of the community. I ran across a church that was giving out free food for people under the age of 18 and that surprised me," said 17-year-old Saleema Muhammad.
"You'll have like corner stores and fast food restaurants on like every single block but not one healthy grocery store or food produce center anywhere nearby, so that kind of disappointed me," said 17-year-old Devonta Dickey.
MAPSCorps is led by researchers at the University of Chicago's Urban Health Initiative. the data compiled continually updates the website SouthSideHealth.org. Within the next two years the searchable database will be linked to electronic medical records and distributed to patients in about 35 area health care facilities.
"Every patient when they leave they'll receive a healthy Rx that will direct them to community based services that they can use to help improve their health," said Dr. Daniel Johnson, MAPSCorps co-director. "Let's say they have obesity, we then are able to point out where in their community that there are weight loss programs, where they can go in order to work out."
The initiative is being run in conjunction with several community groups including the Greater Auburn Gresham Development Corporation. Organizers say it has a direct impact on the students who are participating.
"They aren't just taking a census but they're analyzing. They're using science," said executive director Carlos Nelson.
The students are being paid a stipend for their work through After School Matters.
The comer children hospital and several other health centers will use their data to offer resources to patients beginning as soon as next month.
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