Striving for health equity in health education programming in a county as large and diverse as Cook County, Illinois is no small task. Cook County is the second-most populous county in the United States after Los Angeles County, California. As of 2015, the population was 5.2 million.
Health disparities across the county, which includes the city of Chicago and its surrounding suburbs, are vast. Data show the areas of greatest disparity being the south and west sides of the city, as well as the southern suburbs.
The mission of the Community Health Team is "Educate and inspire Cook County residents to live healthier lives through practical, prevention-focused, research-driven community health programming". Fulfilling this mission includes an ongoing program planning process. As a part of this process, the team considers national and local data in strategically planning where to focus health education efforts. Prior to the development of new programs, the team conducts local needs assessment to identify the strengths and needs of that community. This includes conducting focus groups and key informant interviews with residents and community based organizations.
It is through this process that a small team of four health educators is able to best identify and fill gaps in health education programming, assure efforts are not being duplicated, and ultimately serve to make health a reality for various audiences throughout Cook County.
As you might expect, program topics ebb and flow with changing times. The team works with all ages from preschool to senior citizens. Programming spans physical, mental, and emotional health and includes sexual health education for youth and adults, chronic disease prevention, breast cancer awareness, interpersonal violence prevention and trauma informed care just to name a few.
Check out the Cook County events page to learn more about the variety of University of Illinois Extension programs - http://web.extension.illinois.edu/units/calendar.cfm?UnitID=467