How do you evaluate the health of a city? While you can certainly look at things like hospital admissions and mortality rates, it’s hard to get a clear picture of a city’s overall wellness. But with the recently released City Health Dashboard, it’s easier than ever to see how Chicago stacks up.
The City Health Dashboard evaluates 36 key measures of health for 500 U.S. cities. Looking at Chicago’s data, some clear takeaways about the state of health in our city become clear — some good, some not so good.
- Most Chicagoans have access to healthy foods, but not all of them. Only 19.2 percent of Chicago’s residents have limited access to healthy foods, compared to an average of 61.9 percent among the other cities evaluated by the City Health Dashboard. That being said, not all of Chicago’s residents are afforded such access. In some census tracts, a shocking 99.9 percent of residents have limited access to healthy foods.
- In some neighborhoods, obesity rates are double that of others. Overall, 33.5 percent of Chicago’s residents were found to be obese, which was higher than the 28.8 percent average across the 500 cities studied. But when you look at where obesity rates are dispersed, clear geographic deviations become clear. In Lakeview and Lincoln Park, obesity rates are about 22 percent. Head south or west, however, and obesity rates quickly rise. By the time you get south to Bronzeville or west to Little Village, obesity rates hover above 46 percent.
- Residents on the Northeast Side are more likely to binge drink. On average, 21.8 percent of Chicago adults report binge drinking behavior, versus the average of 16.9 percent in other cities. Neighborhoods on the North Side of the city along the lake, however, report higher binge drinking rates, around 30 percent. Once you go south, rates fall below the average.
- Chicago can be a violent place to live. The data show that Chicago has 1,100 violent crimes per 100,000 people, more than double the average of 511.2 violent crimes in other cities. The City Health Dashboard measurement does not include a breakdown by neighborhood, but the Chicago Police Department’s Clear Map Crime Summary shows that much of the crime is dispersed in pockets around the city, including downtown and the South and West Sides.
- No matter where you reside in Chicago, your lead exposure risk is high. On a scale of 1 to 10, Chicago’s lead exposure risk, when adjusted for poverty and the age of housing, is as bad as it gets: 10. Compare that to the average of 5.5. The lead exposure risk is high in pretty much every neighborhood, though less so closer to downtown.
The purpose of the City Health Dashboard is to be a tool for those on the ground to make better informed decisions about the things that most affect their local population.
“We’ve built the tool so that local experts — city leaders and government officials, but also community groups, advocates and neighborhood residents — can have access to their own data and use it to take action on the issues that matter to them the most,” says Shoshanna Levine, DrPH, program director of the City Health Dashboard in the Department of Public Health at the NYU School of Medicine.
Factors like social and economic factors, as well as the physical environment, are critical when determining where a city’s health succeeds and fails. “We know that health is not just what happens in the doctor’s office,” Levine adds. The goal of the dashboard is to hone in on measures that speak to the larger health status of a community.
The City Health Dashboard is a digital tool created by the Department of Population Health at NYU School of Medicine, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Additional partners include NYU’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, the National Resource Network, ICMA and the National League of Cities.
Want to dig deeper into the data? Visit the City Health Dashboard data for Chicago and see what you can learn about the health of our city.