New CDPH Commissioner Dr. Simbo Ige set to tackle Black maternal health crisis

Jasmine Minor Image
Wednesday, February 21, 2024
New CDPH Commissioner set to tackle Black maternal health crisis
New Chicago Public Health Commissioner Dr. Simbo Ige said her first priority is to tackle the city's Black maternal health crisis.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Dr. Simbo Ige is the first Black woman to become the commissioner of Chicago's Department of Public Health, and said her first priority is tackling the Black maternal health crisis.

Ige said right now, Chicago can only offer postpartum home visits to about 8,000 mothers. She said in order to save lives, it's imperative that number gets doubled.

"Being a Black woman means I can make those things and I can center those things and people that have been ignored," she said.

Ige said she wants the city to offer a home visit three to five weeks after delivery to all 16,500 Black mothers in Chicago.

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"In the Black communities, 78% of those who die from pregnancy related causes die after the baby," Ige said.

In his State of the State address, Governor JB Pritzker proposed $20 million of the budget be dedicated specifically to Black maternal health. Ige applauded the proposal, noting that inequities that exist now can be reversed.

She believes reversals can also take place for mental health and the opioid crisis.

"We are now in the process of expanding the supportive housing space," Ige said. "Some of the lessons we've learned from COVID are that people cannot stay in recovery or be engaged with a mental health treatment if they're simply not housed."

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And she's up for the challenge of bridging those gasp. Born in Nigeria, Dr. Ige has spent time in more than 40 countries studying health inequities.

"Before I was 10 I'd lost a sister, close friends, close family members, I had a cousin with HIV, you know," she said. "So, these things were real to me. And I also understood how healthcare access was so restricted."

She said she's turned the losses into opportunities to better the world around her.

"I hope it is an encouragement to many little girls to say just keep doing it, regardless, to stay one step after another," she said.