'Rite to Wellness' event pushes to improve quality of life in Garfield Park

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A "Rite to Wellness" event in Chicago's Garfield Park Saturday is pushing to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood.

A number of people filled the golden dome to sit in on health panels and participate in different aerobic activities.

"It brings awareness to the community, especially on the West Side," said participant Linda King. "A lot of times we don't, you know, have the entities to get out and do things."

There's a vast difference when it comes to the average life expectancy between different parts of Chicago. It's at just 68 years old in Garfield Park, compared to 84 in the West Loop. That's what makes these events so important.

"About a 16 year life expectancy gap and it's driven, not by personal biology or beliefs and behaviors, but the neighborhood conditions and economic conditions that force people to live in poverty," said David Ansell, a Rush physician and senior vice president of Community Health Equity.

Rush Hospital is joining local organizations to bridge that gap by offering COVID shots and vaccinations at these events.

The hospital is also collaborating on plans to build a health and wellness center in Garfield park over the next couple years. That center would provide an array of fitness options and early childhood development for the community.

"Our aim is to reduce that 16 year expectancy gap by 50% by 2030 in neighborhoods, by the kind of investments in neighborhoods that we know can prolong lives," Ansell said.

Residents across Garfield Park think those investments have been lacking in the area for a long time.

"Why should I have to go out of my community to go to a skating rink or bowling alley when we can have this in our own community and then make sure it's safe. It's about safety for everybody," said life-long Chicago resident Laureate McGee.
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