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CommunityRx Comes to A HealthE'nd

The Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation is working as part of its mission, to address the comprehensive health, of the communities that we serve. On Chicago's Southside, alongside other small community based organizations, we've successfully colloborated with several health partners, to accomplish some really big things.

For the past three years, we have partnered with the University of Chicago's South Side Health and Vitalities Studies (SHVS), to empower communities through a new and innovative program called CommunityRX. A new engagement process and with the use of technology, CommunityRX/HealtheRX helps underserved residents connect to assets and resources, in their local communities, that are outlined in a HealtheRX, given to them when they visit their doctor.

Seated: Doriane Miller, Mark Orthman Standing: Kimesha Huggins (Left), Pamela Sangs (right)

Photo: Norma Sanders

Our CommunityRX lead agency role (GADC), funded by the University of Chicago's Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Health Care and Innovation Award, also included Centers for New Horizon (CNH) and Clarietian Associates, as lead agency sites. We collectively worked to develop a new workforce model for community heaith workers, officially named Community Health Information Specialists (CHIS). A strong workforce development committee, lead by Dr. Dorian Miller, a series of program managers and CBO site supervisors Norma Sanders (GADC) and Christa Hamilton (CNH), and Angela Herman worked diligently to put in resources in place, who were formally trained, by a unique and newly developed certificate program from the Univrsity of Chicago's Graham School.

Greater Auburn-Gresham Develoment Corporation (GADC), had a strong commitment to the Workforce Development Team, and remained engaged with the original staff commitment, until the end of the grant term. Missing from above photo, Norma Sanders, Director Special Initiative, GADC and Christa Hamilton, Executive Director, Centers for New Horizons (CNH).

On the last day of the program, the last of the workforce committee met, to complete project closure activities and reflect on the highlights and even the lowlights.


"In fact, after several years of making phone calls, on the University distributed smart phone, Pamela Sangs noted, "It's a good thing this program is coming to and end, becuase after all the years of daily use, 120+ calls a week, my phone rarely keeps a charge."

                                              Community Health Information Specialists (CHIS) Kimehsa Huggins (GADC)                                                   left), Pamela Sangs (CNH), right                                     Photo: Norma Sanders

"The training from the Graham School also was a highlihgt, Kimesha Huggins noted, some modules were really tough, but I still managed to complete this all, pretty much with straight A's."

A final note from Dr. Stacy Lindau, sums up the commitment and pride the team exhibited the past three years with the folliwng culimination "thank you," of this great project work.

"Dear Colleagues,

While the CommunityRx service continues on, June 30, 2015 marks the completion of our work under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Health Care Innovation Award. Together, we have accomplished:

  •  More than 247,000 HealtheRx’s generated
  • for about 100,000 unique individuals
  • receiving health care in 33 sites across Chicago operated by 5 federally qualified health center corporations and the University of Chicago Medicine.

We have employed hundreds of high school and college students with the MAPSCorps program and, this year, we are replicating MAPSCorps in New York City’s Harlem and Bronx communities.

MAPSCorps has generated data in Chicago on more than 16,000 assets (businesses and organizations serving the public).

We trained four committed people who served in the community as Community Health Information Specialists, a new kind of community health worker that, together, we imagined and created.

Among the hundreds of people who called in to participate in our patient survey, about 50% said they told someone else about CommunityRx, most commonly a friend, and virtually every single person said they had something positive to say (one person was neutral). Provider surveys tell us that, among providers who have used HealtheRx, overall confidence in connecting patients to community resources has increased.

Recently, a new patient came in holding her HealtheRx, which she had received from her primary care provider. She beamed with excitement about the new yoga class she discovered on a HealtheRx generated for a cancer survivor. She went to the class herself and loved it so much that she brought her son and his girlfriend. While there, she learned about a knitting group which she was excited to join. We know not every HealtheRx generated made it into the hands of a patient. We also know that not every patient engaged with the information the HealtheRx provided. But in a case like this, the patient felt supported, she used the information to make her life better and then shared it with people she loved. She supported the local yoga program by showing up and spreading the word. And the yoga program supported the knitting program…and so an idea leads to a health care interaction that leads to wellness and craft and community organizations with more patrons. We will keep studying how and why this innovation works, thanks to research funding from NIH and other sources.

Among the deliverables of this award was to design a sustainable business model. We contemplated many possibilities. As we have discussed many times, we have decided to go forward to test a collective social impact model and are creating a public-private partnership between a new South Side-based company called NowPow (CareIT Health), LLC and a new (to be formed) South Side 501c3 organization called MAPSCorps. NowPow is creating jobs and will contribute tax base to our region. It will also be a revenue source for MAPSCorps. MAPSCorps cultivates scientific minds, healthy people and invested citizens from the assets of our communities. MAPSCorps produces data everyone can use to improve the human condition. As you know, I am founder and an owner of NowPow (CareIT Health), LLC. The University of Chicago does not endorse or promote this entity. My role in the sustainable business model creates a potential conflict of interest for me as a scientist that must and will be carefully managed.

What a privilege and tremendous opportunity it has been to work with each of you on CommunityRx. I believe there is no end in sight for what we can accomplish with the new knowledge, the friendships and the momentum we have generated together. Of all the people this project touched, I’m afraid that I may be the one who benefited most. I am so deeply grateful especially for those of you who took the time after hours to write and call with your guidance and encouragement. I have learned so much from you. This chapter is done, but our work is far from finished.

Let me end by telling you what the South Side Health and Vitality Studies is going to do next, in case you see a role for yourself. Over the last few years, we have operated a food pantry at our Children’s Hospital to support families and caregivers who were going hungry while caring for their hospitalized child. We are going to take everything we’ve learned from CommunityRx and work next on how we can reduce hunger in our community, especially for families with ill children. We will seek to develop a sustainable model for this work and to replicate the model in other hospitals and communities that would benefit. Congratulations to Jennifer Makelarski whose paper “Feed First, Ask Questions Later” was published online June 11, 2015 in the American Journal of Public Health. I hope you will read it and let us know how you want to be involved.

My sincerest thanks,


Keywords: gadc, MAPSCorps, Southside Health and Vitalities Study, SSHVS, University of Chicago Urban Health Initiative

Posted in Auburn Gresham in the News, Community Highlights


To foster and promote revitalization of the community by designing and implementing programs that improve the community’s economic viability; increase availability of quality housing to people of different income levels, while maintaining and improving existing affordable housing; and enhance delivery of social services, particularly to senior citizens.

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