CHE/HMPRG Responds to Commissioner Arwady
In a March 23rd letter to CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, five leaders of the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County--Health and Medicine Policy Research Group express their "profound disappointment" with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH).
"We agree that the health department should raise and use its public health voice. What is profoundly disappointing is that you have stepped back from that duty here," states the letter signed by Jim Bloyd, Joanna Tess, Linda Rae Murray, Susan Ávila, and Wesley Epplin.
“CDPH’s own 2020 Air Quality and Health report demonstrates that this Southeast Side community is already at the worst decile in the City’s air quality and health index. Anything other than a denial is contradictory to the city’s own plans and is an environmentally and structurally racist decision,” said Joanna Tess in a media release.
The letter was a response to a 'Dear Colleagues' letter the Commissioner sent to the leaders---who are spearheading an anti-racist public health action in solidarity with hunger strikers--- on March 17th. On March 15th #StopGeneralIron movement lead by @ChiHungerStrike succeeded in winning a delay of the permit from CDPH for the polluting operation on the Southeast Side of Chicago.
Read the open letter signed by over 500 public health and healthcare workers, students, community activists, and over 70 national and local organizations demanding that the City of Chicago take decisive action to #DenyThePermit to relocate the General Iron/Reserve Management Group (RMG) scrap metal recycling facility to the Southeast Side of Chicago.
The Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, Dr. Allison Arwady, stated her commitment to "not just health equity" but "racial equity" when she introduced the Healthy Chicago 2025 health plan. But Dr. Arwady's actions contradict her words: Data from the City of Chicago's Air Quality and Health report (Source of the graphics above) of 2020 show that the new location on the Southeast Side already has the worst air quality and health status in the City, while the old location in Lincoln Park has the best.
The people who live in the new location on the Southeast Side are predominantly Black and Latinx, while the Lincoln Park neighborhood is white. The folks living on the Southeast side will experience even more pollution than they do already. And their health will worsen; inequities in health will worsen. Racial equity will worsen.
Unless they have a change of heart and decide to listen to the brave hunger strikers and #DenyThePermit, Dr. Arwady, and Mayor Lori Lightfoot will be supporting the systemic, structural racism that has historically produced higher rates of disease and lower life expectancy of Black and Brown Chicagoans.
Sixteen people joined the 1-day solidarity fast with 3 supporters on Friday, February 26, 2021.
CHE Cook County convened an online check in for fasters and supporters at Noon, followed by a tweet storm at 12:30 p.m. supporting the #DenyThePermit and #StopGeneralIron demands of the Southeast Side hunger strikers. Tweets called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot @ChicagosMayor and the Chicago Department of Public Health @ChiPublicHealth to serve the residents of Chicago by fulfilling the highly touted values and racial equity goals of the City's own Healthy Chicago 2025 plan.
Does Healthy Chicago 2025 mean anything to Mayor Lightfoot?
Graphics (with superimposed text) from page 20 and 46 of the Healthy Chicago 2025 plan are shown below. The graphics show the clear contradiction between what the plan states, and the current disregard for Southeast Side residents' health by the Mayor and Chicago Department of Public Health.
The Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County is very familiar with the strategic planning document. We provided guidance and technical assistance to CDPH in the creation of the plan. Black arrows, circle, and red underlining and text are modifications to the graphics below. We want to call readers' attention to the plan's priority to "address inequities in ENVIRONMENT" "with a focus on..Communities burdened by pollution" "so within one generation... all Chicagoans will... Breath clean air free of harmful pollutants."
The Mayor and Chicago Department of Public Health are disregarding not only their own plan. They are also ignoring the explicit demands for a healthy and safe environment by Black and Latinx residents whose health and well-being they say they champion.
At the launch of the plan Mayor Lori Lighfoot said Black and Latinx residents don't have access to safe environments, and they suffer from high levels of chronic health conditions, that lead to preventable and unjust gaps in life expectancy ranging from 9 to 17 years. The Mayor said "That's why we're launching Healthy Chicago 2025. This plan will embody a shared vision for health and racial equity that values the lived experiences, and needs of our residents... and prompts us to ask ourselves, What can we do to create a Chicago where every resident has access to the resources they need to live the healthy life they deserve?" (Healthy Chicago 2025 Plan Launch 18:05-18:30 ).
Commissioner of CDPH Dr. Alison Arwady noted that there is a greater focus of the plan "not only on health equity, but on racial health equity. We're calling it out more specifically, were being even more explicit, in the work, in the planning, in the conversations, and we invite you to join us." (Healthy Chicago 2025 Plan Launch 28:55-29:08)
Residents of the Southeast Side say the time of dumping toxic industry in BIPOC neighborhoods is over. The map of the City of Chicago above shows the Mayor and CDPH are supporting a proposed move of General Iron from the majority White neighborhood of Lincoln Park to the Majority Latinx and Black neighborhood of the Southeast Side. (Source: Safia Samee Ali and Erik Ortizs Jan 29, 2021)
The map above shows that The Mayor and CDPH are permitting General Iron, a business that pollutes the air, to move from a part of the City with high quality air--where most of residents are white--to a part of the City with very low quality air--where most of the residents are Latinx and Black. This will worsen air quality where it is already bad, and will worsen inequitable and preventable health outcomes that already disproportionately affect residents of the Southeast Side, including chronic disease and premature death. (Source: Safia Samee Ali and Erik Ortizs Jan 29, 2021)
We stand in solidarity with the Chicago hunger strikers and Southeast Side community members demanding clean air and health equity. Join us in speaking up for an equitable distribution of social determinants of health, and for racial and environmental justice to support public health and health equity.