Chicagoans rank violence as top concern in health needs assessment

Injury and violence was ranked as top concerns among Chicago's South and West Side residents, along with diabetes, nutrition, physical activity and weight, substance abuse and tobacco use, according to a health needs survey.

The Community Health Needs Assessment is a study that aims to identify the health status, behaviors and needs of the residents the University of Chicago Medical Center serves. It was also conducted in 2009 and 2012.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

1. The residents of Cook County face a homicide rate almost twice as much as the national rate. The Cook County annual average homicide rate was 10.5 deaths per 100,000 people between 2011 and 2013, according to the report. This surpasses the state of Illinois' rate of 6.3 deaths per 100,000 people and far surpasses the national rate of 5.3 deaths per 100,000 people.

2. When those numbers are adjusted for race, the survey shows the homicide rate is significantly higher among non-Hispanic black residents of Cook County. Non-Hispanic blacks living in Chicago face an annual average homicide rate of 32.5 deaths per 100,000 people — more than 23 times higher than the average homicide rate for whites, which is at 1.4 deaths per 100,000 people.

3. Violent crime — which includes murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — also occurred at much higher rates than the national average. Between 2011 and 2013 violent crime in Cook County occurred at a rate of 630.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people, compared to a national average of 380.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

4. Almost 40 percent of residents in the UChicago service area said their neighborhood felt "extremely safe" or "quite safe." However, 43.1 percent said they felt slightly safe, and 19.1 percent said they did not feel at all safe. Residents who felt the least safe were also more likely to be adults under age 65, those living below the poverty level and black residents, according to the report.

5. More than half of residents surveyed felt community violence was a "major problem." A total of 57.1 percent of respondents felt violence was a major problem. One respondent who identified as a community/business leader said he or she felt "guns, gangs, [and] dead children" were co-occurrences. A public health expert said contributing factors were "Poverty, lack of access to resources and education, police violence, [and] budget cuts to social services."


More articles on population health:

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Why one physician group is focusing on prison inmate health

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