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New statistics show that the pandemic had a negative effect on the life expectancy of Chicagoans. Black and brown communities were found to be hit the hardest.
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) reported that life expectancy dropped by two years during the first year of the pandemic, from 2019 to 2020. This drop was found to not be exclusive to one race or area in the city. COVID-19 was the second leading cause of death after chronic illnesses like Heart disease. These illnesses saw a huge spike during the pandemic. Chicago also witnessed an increase in homicides, car accidents, and drug overdoses. The city cites these increases as being heavily impactful on the life expectancy decrease.
Here are some more details on the life expectancy findings of the CDPH:
- The gap between Black and white Chicagoans increased by 1.2 years since 2017.
- The biggest drop of any group came from Latinx, with a three-year decrease.
- Asian/pacific islanders lost two years.
- White Chicagoans lost one year.
- 18-44 years olds saw a 45% increase in death rates, more than the 30% in the 65 and older group most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Working Towards a Solution
Social issues like lack of access to stable housing, childcare, and stable income worsened during the 2019 to 2020 period. City officials are worried about not just the rising death rates, but the varied factors that cause them. Allison Arwady, M.D is the CDPH Commissioner and is committed to putting an end to the pandemic’s negative impact on things like housing and mental health.
The life expectancy gap isn’t just about the causes that show up on the death certificate most often, but what drives those causes.
The CDPH hopes to tackle the life expectancy gap with a new health initiative called Healthy Chicago 2025. One of the first actions taken from the five-year plan was to begin work on the $30 million Healthy Chicago Equity Zones (HCEZ). The project aims to strengthen infrastructure and neighborhood networks in communities most affected by injustices. It will give people in those areas the resources to uphold racial and health equity in the places they live.
Chicago In Charge
One of the leaders involved with the initiative is Tina Sanders. She is the Executive Director of Phalanx Family Services, the head of the Far South HCEZ region. She is happy to see the progress that the HCEZ has brought to the underserved in Chicago. Some of the organizations in partnership with Phalanx include Ada Park Advisory Council, Calumet Heights Homeowners Association, and Kids Off the Block among others.
For the past year, HCEZ regional and community lead organizations have been leading hyperlocal outreach efforts to get people vaccinated, with equity at the heart of this work.
Phalanx along with its partners has been making an effort to get people protected from COVID-19 through vaccinations. Many leaders believe that the sooner Chicagoans get out of the pandemic, the better their well-being will be.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Edited by Sheena Robertson
Mayor’s Press Release: LIFE EXPECTANCY IN CHICAGO DECLINED DURING THE PANDEMIC’S FIRST
YEAR WITH THE BIGGEST DROPS AMONG BLACK AND LATINX CHICAGOANS
Interview: Tina Sanders on May 2, 2022
Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Eric Allix Rogers’ Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Conal Gallagher’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License