Today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle was joined by Cook County Health and Hospitals System (CCHHS) CEO Dr. Jay Shannon at Provident Hospital to highlight the essential health services provided by Cook County and why the County needs to continue to fund vital public health and hospitals work.
The President and Dr. Shannon also were joined by Cook County Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th District), Illinois Public Health Institute CEO Elissa Bassler, Provident doctors, nurses and patients, as well as public health advocates and members of the south side communities served by Provident.
In addition to providing 45 percent of all charity care in Cook County, the Health and Hospitals System is also a leader in care coordination, community health investment and focus on preventative medicine. Of the 350,000 new Medicaid patients in Cook County, 140,000 of them are covered by CountyCare, the Health and Hospitals System’s Medicaid managed care plan.
Provident was one of two locations, along with CCHHS’s Austin Health Center, that was set to receive a combined $1 million from new revenue generated by the sweetened beverage tax to open lifestyle centers designed to promote healthy living. The south and west sides of Chicago are home to some of the County’s most vulnerable patients and many of the patients CCHHS serves.
“We know that encouraging our residents to lead healthier lives, and providing them with the support they need to do so, is the moral and cost effective way to run Cook County—a county where we spend 46 percent of our budget on public health-related costs,” President Preckwinkle said. “I believe we are at a crossroads. We can keep this added revenue, and Cook County can be healthier, safer and more efficient. Or we can get rid of it and we can go backwards and be sicker, less safe and less efficient.
”With that funding at risk, our plans for the lifestyle centers are on hold,” Dr. Shannon said. “It is my hope that we will be able to move forward with providing our patients these comprehensive wellness services in the near future. By preventing and controlling diabetes through preventive care and education, we can not only reduce health expenditures but improve the lives of the patients we serve so they may continue to retain their productivity, independence and livelihood.”
The Health and Hospitals System has estimated it spends approximately $200 million annually treating sugar-consumption-liked conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and tooth decay.
Provident is home to one of the County's top ophthalmology clinics, and doctors on Tuesday explained how sugar-consumption-linked diseases such as diabetes increase the prevalence of eye disease and need for eye care.
Last year, CCHHS had nearly 44,000 ophthalmology visits in its health system.
Illinois Public Health Institute’s Elissa Bassler praised the community health-based work being done by CCHHS and reemphasized the positive health outcomes that could be generated by a sweetened beverage tax.
“I’m standing with the hundreds of thousands who receive health services from the County – whose lives are saved by the treatment they receive from dedicated County doctors and nurses; and I’m especially standing with the County’s uninsured residents, many of whom are undocumented immigrants who would be without any health care if Cook County doesn’t have the resources it needs to serve them,” Bassler said. “I’m standing with the patients with diabetes or other chronic diseases who need more than to just see a doctor, but who also need support services like access to healthy foods and the lifestyle change resources that we are in danger of losing without the tax.”
Just last week, President Preckwinkle visited the Jorge Prieto Family Health Center in Little Village, where a CCHHS/Greater Chicago Food Depository fresh food truck was making one of its 11 stops to CCHHS clinics across the County. Through this program, more than 140,000 pounds of fresh food have been distribute to 5,000 households that have been identified by our doctors and nurses as food insecure. Innovative partnerships like these and hospitals like Provident position the County government to be a cornerstone of the social safety net for Cook County residents.