Rolling Out

What Chicago Public Health is doing to protect people of color during pandemic

What Chicago Public Health is doing to protect people of color during pandemic
(Photo by A.R. Shaw for rolling out)

The Chicago Department of Public Health has one goal that stands above many in a pandemic: Protect the Brown and Black communities.

COVID took everything because it was killing people,” CDPH medical director Geraldine Luna said on an April 14 Zoom call with local media members. “Right now in the United States, over 900,000 individuals, we’re almost talking about a million individuals lost their lives.

“We know the ethnicities highly represented in those dead people that won’t have their loved ones sitting in another year with them sitting in those spaces, leaving incredible devastation in our famil[ies]. We lost years of productive life, individuals that will not ever be able to produce for their families, and you know what that means in communities of color that have been segregated and marginalized because of this racist systems and discriminatory systems we have in place.”

After addressing the problem, Luna asked for a solution and the next step to take.

“Those are those conversations,” she said. “What can we do? We need to inject, we need to have this conversation, we need to support, we need to create programs that empower our people.”

CDPH launched multiple campaigns in the face of the pandemic, led by Protect Chicago 77, a campaign created to ensure 77% of all Chicagoans ages 12 and up have received the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. Neighbors for Life celebrated residents who helped other community members and educated others about the benefits of getting vaccinated. Face Forward was a campaign that spotlighted Chicago teens who got the vaccine and had the chance to get personalized portraits made. There was also a program that informed parents who were hesitant to get their children vaccinated.

“It has been there for years and years, centuries of people dying for overrepresenting diseases — diabetes, obesity, minor diseases, preventable diseases are killing our people of color in this country,” Luna said. “So we need to start working to make these changes, fill those gaps and make a transformation.”

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