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Chicago Department of Public Health

Health care facilities in Brighton Park. The star designates the proposed health center.

For residents in Brighton Park, health care access may be on the way

by Bernard A. Lubell
Jan 13, 2011


U.S. Census

The highlighted portion of this Census Tract map shows  the medically underserved area of Brighton Park in Cook County.

Related Links

UIC Neighborhoods InitiativeBureau of Primary Healthcare

This is why Brighton Park received the designation:

-- 18.1 percent below 100 percent poverty

-- 6.9 percent over 65 years of age

-- infant mortality rate of 7.6 per 1,000 live births (1995-1999)

-- primary care physicians per 1,000 people: 0.091

A grant application submitted Wednesday by the UIC Neighborhoods Initiative could mean healthcare access in the South Side’s medically underserved Brighton Park.

In 2003, less than one physician was available per 1,000 residents, according to a representative from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Dr. Cynthia Boyd, executive director of the initiative, said, “It is reasonable to presume that there is now a greater gap in the number of providers to patients because of the population explosion and the population number of kids.”

In 2003, the federal government classified Brighton Park as a medically underserved area. To obtain this status, a population must meet one of four criteria: a high poverty rate, a segment of the population over the age of 65, a high infant mortality rate and low number of primary care providers per 1,000 residents.  

“[The designation of] Brighton Park in itself is a statement because, in other communities, there are only pockets of need—not an entire community,” Boyd said.

The grant proposed by the Neighborhood Initiative for funding by HRSA would place a community-based health center in Burroughs Elementary School through the Bureau of Primary Health Care that funds community health centers.

Lizbeth Gonzalez, parent coordinator of Burroughs, said it’s always difficult to get her child seen by a doctor at one of the few health clinics in the area. Even if she has an appointment, she said the wait can be up to two hours.

“It would relieve a lot of pressure of having to travel, and the financial difficulties,” said Gonzalez. “If something happens to [my son] while he’s attending school, I know he’ll be seen.”

Kids in Brighton Park see the direct results of lack of healthcare access. Nearly 700 students at Davis Elementary were non-compliant in their immunizations as of Sept. 15, according to the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council.

“It could be an indication of how disengaged the community is from the providers that are already there,” Boyd said. “I suspect, based on conversations with people, that part of it is that we have to make sure the services are culturally relevant and that people can access them without fear of being undocumented.”

About 80 percent of Brighton Park’s nearly 45,000 residents are Hispanic, many of whom are immigrants, according to UIC.

“One of the justifications was the high concentration of the Hispanic population,” said Andy Jordan, director of HRSA’s Office of Shortage Designation. The medically underserved designation is based on U.S. Census data that does not count undocumented immigrants.

The Neighborhoods Initiative will learn the results of the grant application this summer. Boyd said she will keep submitting grants until she can secure funding for the community.