Cook County Health (CCH), a unit of Cook County Government and one of the largest public health care systems in the nation, will implement Cook County Health - Community Health Workers for COVID Response and Resilient Communities (CCH-CCR) Initiative. The catchment area for the CCH-CCR Initiative is suburban Cook County, Illinois (SCC). SCC covers a total of 700 square miles and encompasses more than 130 municipalities with nearly 2.5 million people.
Despite various initiatives, programs and services to meet the increased need, we have witnessed growing disparities across SCC that were exacerbated during the pandemic and have not been able to be effectively addressed due to the region's lack of infrastructure and coordination between the many systems in place. Signifiantly, SCC represents a disproportionate burden of COVID-19 case infection rates and COVID-19 mortality rates. From the start of the pandemic to May 07, 2021, SCC has had a total of 243,156 confirmed cases; 15,577 hospitalized cases, including 3,351 in the intensive care unit; and 4,297 deaths. In addition, populations living in poverty in SCC have been disproportionately more affected by COVID-19 infections. SCC is part of Cook County, where 15.1% of residents are living in poverty compared to 10.5% for the U.S. The hospitalization rate for residents living in the highest-poverty neighborhoods (>20% living in poverty) at 914 per 100,000 is almost double the rate of those living in the lowest-poverty neighborhoods (<5% living in poverty) at 463 per 100,000. Based on the CDC's COVID-19 Data Tracker Integrated County View, for the 7-day time period of Monday, May 3, 2021 to Sunday May 9, 2021, it shoes a persistent burden of COVID case rates and deaths per 100,000 for Cook County even though vaccinations are now available for all adults in SCC. The 7-day total of reported cases was 6,066, for a case rate of 117.8 per 100,000, and the 7-day total of reported deaths was 86, for a death rate of 1.67 per 100,000.
Acknowledging the current landscape in SCC and the need to strengthen access to health care and community resources, CCH is partnering with the Cook County Department of Public Health, a CCH affiliate and a nationally accredited, state-certified local public health department for most of SCC, to expand the number and capacity of Community Health Workers (CHWs) integrated within CCH's multidisciplinary care team and in community-based organizations (CBOs) to reach SCC communities hardest hit by COVID-19 and connect individuals from priority populations to resources. The CHWs will also support outreach, education and community engagement across SCC to maximize their impact. The 3-year outcomes are to increase: 1) the CHW wokforce by at minimum 20 individuals; 2) their knowledge, skills and competencies, as well as the capacity of their respective organizations to implement an effective CHW model; and 3) the utiliziation of community and clinical resources amount 64,800 individuals within priority populations.