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How Healthy Is Your Town - Best and Worst

Diagnosing the well-being of 191 Chicago suburbs—and the city itself.

(page 3 of 6)



Best and Worst - 25,000-49,999 Population


 Photo: Andreas Larsson

“There’s a huge emphasis on health and fitness here,” say Robbie and Kim deMarigny of Park Ridge, pictured here with their daughter Rachel, 10, and son Caleb, 8.

Park Ridge



It’s a sweltering day, so the deMarigny family have the baseball diamond at Park Ridge’s Hinkley Park to themselves. “This is such a good town, with a park about every five blocks, and they’re sticklers for their trees,” says the dad, Robbie, a local pastor, while his wife, Kim, hits balls to their two kids, Rachel and Caleb. “There’s a huge emphasis on health and fitness here.”


One of the major champions of health in Park Ridge is Advocate Lutheran General Hospital, which staffs and supplies an in-school health clinic at Maine East High School-with financial assistance from a local community fund established by Park Ridge residents. The 2,200-student Maine East draws from the wealthy epicenter of the town, but also from the surrounding unincorporated Maine Township, where affordable housing lures new immigrants. As a result, 67 percent of students at Maine East come from homes where English is not the primary language and where many consider health insurance a luxury.

Situated on the ground floor of the high school, the bright and clean clinic features three exam rooms, a lab, a conference room, and a reception area. “These kids really need this kind of help,” says Tom Higgins, director of community relations at Lutheran General. “If you’re sick, you’re not going to learn.”

Working with the Park Ridge Rotary Club, Lutheran General is also launching a groundbreaking health literacy campaign, one that should help ensure that crucial health dispatches-like instructions

for prescription drugs and hospital discharges-are communicated in sufficient detail to marginally literate and illiterate patients. With the program under way at Advocate hospitals, the Rotary Club is taking the campaign to other interested hospitals in the Chicago region.



Cancer took the lives of two of Eraina Dunn’s co-workers, and her mother has battled the disease as well. And gang violence was the likely cause behind the death of her 15-year-old son. Dunn believes the scourge of disease and violence is the consequence of Harvey’s three decades of industrial decline.


“People around here once had viable, good-paying jobs, but they have had to take less and lower their expectations of life,” she says in her paper-stuffed office at the Human Action Community Organization. “Industry moving out of Harvey left us desperate for jobs and revenue, so we’ve been willing to take whatever we can get. We’ve had to trade health for jobs.”



Acres of public open space in Chicago

Source: City of Chicago

When a major employer-a company that reprocesses metal-bearing hazardous waste to neutralize it for transport-was up for permit renewal last year, “nobody showed up at the hearings to say, ‘Get out,’” Dunn says. “People wanted to show we appreciate their business, even though we don’t know how our health is being affected.”


A high incidence of cancer-1,055 cases in five years-is particularly troublesome in this town with a large African American population. Here, and throughout the United States, black women die at a higher rate from breast cancer than women of other races, and black men have the highest likelihood of getting prostate cancer, says Dr. Mark Kozloff, medical director of the cancer care program at Ingalls Memorial Hospital in Harvey. In the late 1990s, Ingalls Memorial launched a series of outreach and screening programs designed to reduce the rates of death by cancer in Harvey and other southern suburbs. This year, it is expanding the program’s scope beyond breast and prostate cancer to reduced-price screenings for colorectal cancer.

View the complete ratings for towns with 25,000 - 49,999 population




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