Cook County, IL

The Collaborative for Health Equity-Cook County (CHE Cook County) works to eliminate structural racism so that all people of Cook County have the opportunity to live healthy lives.

For more information and to become involved, please contact:
Team Lead
Felipe Tendick-Matesanz, CHE Cook County
Restaurant Opportunities Center of Chicago

TEAM PROFILE SUMMARY

The Collaborative for Heath Equity-Cook County (CHE Cook County) works to eliminate structural racism so that all people of Cook County have the opportunity to live healthy lives. First, CHE Cook County raises awareness about the existence of stark and unacceptable health inequities that disproportionately affect people of color. Second, we challenge the root causes of health inequities by advocating policy change. Food justice is the policy focus for CHE Cook County. Third, CHE Cook County builds power among low income communities of color by forming alliances with base-building organizations to support campaigns that will create the living conditions necessary for good health.

TEAM PROFILE DETAILS

CHE Cook County is a multi-sector collaborative of people and organizations. It is governed by a Steering Committee of twelve people who work in community and labor organizing, youth leadership, disability rights, public education at the primary and university levels, social service, health policy, and governmental public health. The Steering Committee meets quarterly to guide committee work and the part-time staff donated by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Milestones include: The release in July 2012 of a health equity report, which garnered the support of County elected officials and media attention; screenings and community discussions of the documentary films Unnatural Causes and The Raising of America; policy advocacy through testimony, radio interviews, social media, newsletters and fact sheets, public protests, and meetings with elected officials; presentation to the Institute of Medicine of National Academy of Sciences in 2014.  CHE Cook County has developed partnerships with organizations including Austin Coming Together (Chicago); Backbones (Chicagoland); Centers For New Horizons (Bronzeville, Chicago); Food Chain Workers Alliance (national); Human Action Community Organization (Harvey); Lambda Tau Omega Chapter Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated (south suburbs); Midwest Latino Health Research, Training, and Policy Center (regional); The Raising of America (national); Restaurant Opportunities Center Chicago (ROC Chicago); and the University of Illinois at Chicago B.A. in Public Health Program.

PROBLEM STATEMENT

CHE Cook County documented a 14-year difference in life expectancy between residents living in areas with a median income greater than $53,000 per year and people living in neighborhoods with a median income below $25,000. The long history of high levels of racial residential segregation in metropolitan Chicago reflects structural racism and remains uninterrupted. Less than 10% of poor children who are white live in high-poverty neighborhoods. In contrast, 75% of poor children who are black and 45% of poor children who are Latino are subjected to the toxic consequences of concentrated poverty. The booming Chicago-area restaurant industry contributes to health inequities by discriminatory hiring practices in which people of color and women are employed in lower-wage ‘back-of-the-house’ work and experience higher levels of harassment and hazards than do people who are white men. Surveys show that the richest–and largely white– 1% of Illinois residents oppose policy needed for health-equity while at the same time having political influence disproportionate to their numbers because of their extreme wealth. The collective action of ‘People Power’ is one solution to remedy the imbalance of money, power and resources, fulfill the human right to health, and achieve health equity in Cook County.