Eliminating health inequities through the RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity
On average, individuals residing in downtown Chicago will live 16 years longer than those that live six miles west due to decades of economic inequities including inadequate housing, higher poverty and unemployment rates and lower levels of education and health insurance. To help address these disparities, in 2021 BMO gave $10 million to create the RUSH BMO Institute for Health Equity (RBIHE), which helps to coordinate, scale and sustain all of RUSH’s health equity programs in an effort to remove barriers and ensure everyone in Chicago has a fair chance at a long, healthy life.
Establishing community-based health centers requires trained professionals. That’s why BMO donated $5 million to RUSH in 2013 to help hire Community Health Workers (CHWs) to provide community members with free access to services – in both English and Spanish. Through partnerships with social workers and community health nurses, CHWs provide essential support in historically underserved communities, most of which are at high risk of chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. RUSH recruits workers from the West Side of Chicago, helping remove barriers to inclusion by providing community members with salaried jobs and competitive benefits in the STEM field.
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the CHW team quickly grew to 40 workers. Along with connecting people with resources like free healthy food, utility bills assistance and primary care providers, CHWs provided additional services including health screenings, contact tracing, virus testing and vaccine education.
With BMO’s extended support in 2021, RBIHE implemented and expanded the Community Health Worker Hub, which brought more CHWs to the community and increased their reach to under-resourced individuals on the West Side of Chicago. The Hub has hosted events to raise awareness, helped thousands of people with social needs – including food and transportation – and assisted hundreds of people with complex needs, including those experiencing homelessness, mental health crises, substance misuse, abuse and neglect.
“We at RUSH view the institute as an accelerator and amplifier of the incredible research, interprofessional education, community-based care, policy work and community partnerships that are already happening at RUSH. With BMO’s help, we are doing this to reduce gaps in life expectancy, improve the well-being of communities and undo the structural racism that affects the health and well-being of so many communities.”
Much like BMO’s commitment to remove barriers to health equity, the RBIHE leverages RUSH’s strengths in patient care, research and education, philanthropic investment and community partnerships to strengthen the health and vitality of communities that we serve.
Read more about BMO’s commitment to zero barriers to inclusion for our colleagues, customers and communities.