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Cook County Health Equity Group Chosen for Robert Wood Johnson Foundation National Leadership Training

Sep 12, 2016

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group and the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County are pleased to announce that a four-person team representing their organizations was selected today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to participate in their Culture of Health Leaders initiative, a three-year national leadership development program targeting sharp health inequities along lines of race and income.

"I congratulate our Cook County team in being selected for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Leaders program,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “Achieving health equity is a top priority for Cook County government and this team will work across sectors to help us make progress in combatting the health inequities that harm disadvantaged people in our communities."

Fielded by the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County, team members Maxx Boykin, Wesley Epplin, Lilian Jimenez, and Felipe Tendick-Matesanz are four of the 40 applicants selected for the Culture of Health Leaders, a new program co-led by the National Collaborative for Health Equity and CommonHealth ACTION with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  The team will join leaders from across the country to participate in leadership development training and to collaborate and innovate to solve persistent challenges and advance a Culture of Health—one that places well-being at the center of every aspect of life.  

“This team exemplifies the multi-sector, social justice approach that research shows is needed to bring the United States population health indicators in line with other industrialized countries,” said Health and Medicine’s Executive Director Margie Schaps. “We’re proud to serve as the fiscal sponsor for this exemplary team and to have our Director of Health Equity Wesley Epplin among the group. The team’s efforts over the next three years will complement Health & Medicine’s work to improve the health of all people in Illinois and promote health equity.”

“Optimizing health and achieving health equity for all people and communities of Cook County is a goal for this program and a core mission of the health department. I congratulate this group of emerging leaders and welcome their contribution to this important work,” said Dr. Terry Mason, Chief Operating Officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, which formed the Collaborative over ten years ago. The Collaborative for Health Equity works to eliminate structural racism by advocating for policy and building power among low income communities of color of to address the root causes of stark and unacceptable health inequities that disproportionately affect people of color.

“The inspiration and vision these leaders bring to our program is astounding, and they come at health and equity from every angle,” said Brian Smedley, Culture of Health Leaders co-director and executive director and co-founder of the National Collaborative for Health Equity. “They will redefine the way leaders in every field use their innovation and influence to shatter the status quo on health in our country.”

Culture of Health Leaders is one of four new leadership development programs launched this year by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that together represent a four-year, multimillion dollar investment. The programs join five existing leadership programs in advancing RWJF’s legacy of supporting the development and diversity of leaders impacting health. The 2017 application period for the new programs will open in January.  Additional information is available at

Download the press release here.

For media inquiries, please contact: Magda Slowik at (312) 372-4292 ext. 30 or Jim Bloyd from the Collaborative for Health Equity Cook County at  708-955-4100 or

Announcing the 2016 HMPRG Award Winners

Aug 25, 2016

We're pleased to announce the recipients of the 2016 HMPRG Awards representing leaders in the fields of policy, public health, medicine, and advocacy whose work exemplifies Health & Medicine’s mission to promote social justice and challenge inequities in health and health care.

Health: Amy Zimmerman, JD, Legal Council for Health Justice
Ms. Zimmerman is a longtime leader of one of the first pediatric medical-legal partnerships in the country addressing health-harming legal needs of children and families.

Policy: Mark Kuczewski, PhD & Linda Brubaker, MD, MS, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Dr. Brubaker and Dr. Kuczewski advocated for the changes which made Stritch School of Medicine the first medical school in the nation to accept DACA students.
Emerging Leader: Manuel Diaz, Arise Chicago
Mr. Diaz’s career has included addressing inequities in the workplace, organizing for community empowerment, working towards a fair electoral process, and fighting for a just immigration policy.

Medicine: Frank Belmonte, DO, MPH, Advocate Children’s Hospital
Dr. Belmonte has championed the idea of Advocate’s Medicaid ACE (serving over 100,000 women and children) becoming the first trauma-informed health system in the country.

Dr. Steve Whitman Research Award: Lisa L. Barnes, PhD., Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center
Dr. Barnes aims to decrease health disparities within the African American populations through health related research, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease research, as well as mentoring students to consider health inequities in their research.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Mildred C. Hunter, HHS Office of Minority Health
As the regional representative from the HHS Office of Minority Health, Ms. Hunter has spent her career advocating for the inclusion of underserved and vulnerable populations in health policies and health interventions.

Group: Brighton Park Neighborhood Council
BPNC works to address a range of community issues through culturally and linguistically appropriate services while engaging local residents to become community leaders. BPNC's mission is to create a safer community, improve the learning environment at public schools, preserve affordable housing, provide a voice for youth, protect immigrants' rights, promote gender equality, and end all forms of violence.

We invite you to join us for drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and conversation as we celebrate our 2016 HMPRG Award winners at our awards event on October 19, 2016 in Chicago from 5:30-8:30pm.

Health & Medicine Shares Recommendations for CCHHS Strategic Plan

Jul 22, 2016

On Thursday, July 21, Health & Medicine’s Executive Director Margie Schaps offered testimony at a public hearing on Cook County Health & Hospitals System’s three-year strategic plan, Impact 2020.

Throughout its history, Health & Medicine has worked to support CCHSS and the safety net through research, policy, and fiscal support. In 2007, Health & Medicine helped to create the independent board of CCHHS and continues to serves on the nominating committee, advising Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on the new appointments.

“While we wholeheartedly support the vision laid out in the strategic plan,” Schaps testified,  “<any challenges will face the system in the coming years:  developing and retaining the right workforce for the populations you serve, keeping patients in the system now that many have options to receive care elsewhere through Medicaid expansion, moving care to the communities most in need, strengthening the public health system that is the backbone of ensuring population health, and securing the financing to provide needed programs and services.”

Schaps went on to offer the Board a number of recommendations to augment the plan:

  • Explore new workforce/team models of care:  peer educators, community health workers, and peer support for behavioral health challenges.  These have been shown to be highly effective for many populations.
  • Develop a taskforce of insiders and outsiders (like Health & Medicine) to help define how the system might best address equity and SDOH. We at HMPRG are looking at promising practices around the country and would be happy to support this work.
  • Use our political leaders, the media and others to try to engage the other not-for-profit hospitals in the region to take more responsibility for the care of the uninsured and underinsured in our County.  They must not step back from their responsibility to use the tax advantages given them to provide charity care under the Illinois constitution.
  • Explore not only new staffing models, but new sites of care delivery, for example freestanding birth centers which are now legal in Illinois and I believe would bring many pregnant women back to the CCHHS for their care if this alternative were available.  New low-tech, low staffing-intensity programs for people with behavioral health challenges--like the living room model--should be explored and implemented if feasible.
  • Strengthen the relationship with the CCJTDC so that youth in the correctional system are connected to CCHHS services when they leave detention.
  • Explore ways that CCDPH and CDPH can work more closely, including the option of merging as many systems around the country have successfully done.
  • Continue to collaborate with others across the county to work toward insurance coverage for those not currently covered.
  • Continue to identify ways the system can address root causes and upstream determinants of health, such as Adverse Childhood Experiences, identified in your plan.  We are now working with Advocate ACO and Aetna to develop plans for ensuring that every person in their workforce is trauma- and ACE-informed because they too believe this will better address health problems early and prevent higher costs later in life.
  • Be a leader in pushing the state to identify ways they can leverage federal resources for things like behavioral health.

 View her full remarks here.  You can learn more about the strategic plan and next steps here.

Health & Medicine Offers Testimony at Cook County Board Budget Hearing

Jul 20, 2016

Health & Medicine’s Executive Director Margie Schaps on Tuesday testified at the Cook County Board Budget Hearing in support of Board President Toni Preckwinkle’s preliminary fiscal year 2017 budget for the County.

“The Cook County Health & Hospitals System (CCHHS) is shifting its focus to public health, prevention, and addressing the social determinants of health—the things that will ultimately result in a healthier population and lower overall costs,” Schaps said. “But these savings do not happen overnight. The administration and board of the health system are to be commended for making these shifts.”

Since Health & Medicine’s founding in 1981, the organization has testified before the Board in support of a strong Cook County Health system.  The organization has contributed to several strategic plans, analyzed budgets, attended countless meetings, as well as conducted research and planning with and on behalf of the system.  Through its policy research efforts, Health & Medicine has studied public hospital systems around the country.

“CCHHS is unique and is a treasure to our county.  Their mission is clear and lays out their commitment to caring for all regardless of ability to pay,” Schaps said and defended increased budget allocations to the system.

“We recognize that these are difficult financial times for the county and that the implementation of the ACA may lull many into believing that the new money flowing into the system is enough to cover all of the services the health system provides.  This is not true—we still have hundreds of thousands of people in our county without health insurance, many of the newly-insured are seeking healthcare for the first time in decades and present with complex behavioral and physical health needs that require more staff time, a greater array of services and therefore at a greater cost than the system was accustomed to,” Schaps testified.

The full text of Ms. Schaps remarks is available here. An executive budget recommendation is expected in October. This will be followed by public hearings and a final vote in November.