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Taking Health Care to the Streets

The 1100 block of West 79th Street became a healthcare “sidewalk sale” for three hours on June 2 thanks to the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corp. (GADC), Perspectives Charter School Elev8 program, and a host of partners led by CVS Caremark and the University of Chicago Medical Center’s Urban Health Initiative.

Zumba, hip-hop and Nubian dance shows from Perspectives students underscored the health theme of the day.

Ben Levine

More than 40 vendors turned out for the biannual Auburn Gresham Health Fair, an event that attracts hundreds of people who visit the tables along the sidewalk and watch performers from Perspectives, who on this day put on zumba, hip-hop and Nubian dance shows honed during Elev8 after-school programs.

“The health disparities in our community are so extreme,” said Carlos Nelson, executive director of GADC. “This addresses that right away. It’s not housed at an institution. It’s right here on the street.”

Targeting particularly young people and the elderly, the vendors provided a mix of services and advice on physical, mental and financial health, Nelson said. “So many young folks are moderately obese,” he said. “The things we eat and our way of life encourages diabetes and everything else that comes with being overweight. Each vendor has an opportunity to inform the residents of how they should be living.”

CVS Caremark had a mini-clinic handling screenings as well as tables with samples of pill packs, toothbrushes and other health-oriented products. The drugstore chain has partnered with Perspectives in the past few years to put on presentations about the ill effects of illicit drugs, said Tenisha Jones, Elev8 director at GADC.

CVS Caremark, which regularly partners with Perspectives and the Elev8 program, provided pharmacists to answer prescription-related questions and a plethora of free samples.

Ben Levine

“We’re definitely moving along in our strategic partnership and finding ways to impact the community, related to health initiatives that also fall within the goals of Elev8,” said Tom Ashworth, manager of field diversity for CVS Caremark. “We’re looking for other opportunities to continue that this fall.”

A general practitioner from the CVS Minute Clinic provided consultation on issues like diabetes and blood pressure, while a pharmacist answered questions about prescription discount programs, Ashworth said.

“They’re increasing the awareness about services we offer,” he said. “I see GADC as a good fit with the outreach we’re looking to do and we are doing.”

Two doctors and other personnel from the University of Chicago spread the word about their South Side Health and Vitality Studies Asset Census Project, which is plotting a map of health-related assets on the South Side. They will determine where gaps in service exist to highlight where new assets should be located, said pediatrician Daniel Johnson, a principal investigator for the project.

“Our argument is that health is a function of many different factors. It’s important to know what are the assets in that community,” said Johnson, whose table was also providing health screenings. “We want to be able to link to the health outcomes data and see whether assets predict outcomes.”

Also on hand was the Sickle Cell Disease Association of Illinois, providing information about a condition that 1 in 10 African-Americans and 1 in 30 Hispanics either have or could pass along to their children.

“The health disparities in our community are so extreme,” said Carlos Nelson, executive director of GADC. “This addresses that right away. It’s not housed at an institution. It’s right here on the street.”

Ben Levine

“People need to be tested to know if they’re a carrier, and it’s not just prevalent in the African-American community,” said Blanche Gholston, outreach coordinator.

Another group spreading its word was the Chicago Health Corps, which provides services at the health clinic inside Perspectives through the Elev8 program. A new offering there is testing for sexually transmitted diseases like HPV, herpes and Chlamydia, said Antoinette Fisher, corps member. “Community members can come in and get themselves tested,” she said.

Other vendors included the St. Sabina Employment Resource Center, UIC School of Public Health, and Healthy Schools Campaign—along with Ms. B’s Italian Ice and Cool N Smooth Smoothies. “It looks like a sidewalk sale—and in some respects, it is,” Nelson said. “This [event] is definitely here to stay.”

For GADC's own coverage of the health fair, please click here, or to see more images of the fair, please click here.

Posted in Health, Auburn Gresham


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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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