Durbin Discusses Impact Of COVID-19 With West Side United

SPRINGFIELD – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) spoke with representatives from West Side United to discuss the racial and ethnic disparities in health care during the COVID-19 pandemic and solutions for more equitable health care outcomes for communities of color.  To begin addressing these disparities, Durbin has called on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to begin reporting nationwide demographic data of cases and deaths related to COVID-19 and utilize this data seek solutions for the systemic health care inequalities worsening this pandemic for communities of color. Joining Durbin and West Side United on today’s call included: U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), U.S. Representatives Bobby Rush (D-IL-01), Danny Davis (D-IL-07), Robin Kelly (D-IL-02), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL-14). 

“Sadly, many of us were not surprised when news of serious racial disparities in COVID-19 cases and deaths came to light.  We know there are alarming systemic inequalities that are now being magnified by this public health crisis, and we need bold solutions to increase health care access and affordability and improve health outcomes in communities of color,” said Durbin. “I’ll continue to fight for our communities that have felt the brunt of this pandemic, and ensure the federal government is increasing resources and attention to this challenge.

In Illinois, African Americans account for nearly 40 percent of COVID-19 deaths despite making up only 15 percent of the state’s population. Chicago is seeing even higher levels of racial disparities, with African Americans accounting for about 60 percent of deaths while only making up 29 percent of the city’s population. Durbin has cosponsored the Equitable Data Collection and Disclosure Act, which calls for the release of demographic data on COVID-19 testing, treatment, and deaths.  

West Side United is a collaborative of six hospitals—Lurie Children's Hospital, Cook County Health & Hospitals System, AMITA Health, Sinai Health System, Rush University Medical Center, and University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System—who are working together to improve neighborhood health and vitality on Chicago’s West Side. 

West Side United is a community-based coalition working together with Durbin’s Chicago Hospital Engagement, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Initiative, launched in 2018. Together with 10 of the largest hospitals serving the Chicago area and the Illinois Health and Hospital Association (IHA), Durbin launched the Chicago HEAL Initiative, which is a three-year project to reduce violence and improve health by making a measurable difference in the well-being of Chicago residents in neighborhoods with the highest rates of violence, poverty, and inequality. Recognizing their roles as leading employers, the hospitals have made 16 tangible commitments on actions—outside of their traditional health care activities—to uplift their communities, including through local hiring and procurement, job training and mentorship, housing, and mental health activities. Durbin released a one-year interim report on the HEAL Initiative last October.