Chicago among largest US cities with widest racial health gap, mortality rate: study

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A new study shows that racial disparities over the last decade have gotten worse in several U.S. cities, including Chicago.

Chicago has one of the widest all-cause mortality rate gaps between Blacks and whites in the top 30 largest cities in the country, according to a new study by some local researchers.

The Black mortality rate was 65% higher than the white rate from 2009 to 2018. Nationwide, it was 24% higher.

"City officials and other health stakeholders need data specific to their jurisdiction so they can make an evidence-informed decision so they can prioritize the right things," said Maureen Benjamins, a senior research fellow at Sinai Urban Health Institute.

The study looked at deaths from any cause, however, researchers didn't examine the reasons for the disparity.

"Some cities have figured out how to get toward racial equity," Benjamins said. "So we think that's hopeful. It provides models for us, we can look to those cities to say, 'what is the policy climate.'"

Those who work on the ground in communities on the South and West Sides have seen the health disparities first hand. They said the coronavirus has laid bare the consequences.

"It is going to be striking when we get that data out in terms of looking at where we were in 2018 and where we are now on 2020 and 2021," said Dr. Michael McGee, CEO of Premier Urgent Care & Occupational Health Center.

Dr. McGee said there are a multitude of factors for the racial health gap, including access to health care.

"Then you look at the social determinants of health. What's their education like? What kind of environment they are living in and what kind of economic hardships are they facing," Dr. McGee asked.

Shannon Bennett with the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization said those impacted need a seat at the table to help shape public policy.

"What usually happens is that people who are degreed or people have who had certain status, they come up with the solutions," she said. "Look where it has gotten us so far."
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