Reviving health as part of a community’s renaissance
With more than $250 million in investments and 1,700 new jobs in the last decade, the historic Pullman district on Chicago’s south side is on the rise.
The nation’s first planned community, named for the luxury railroad sleeper car manufacturer, Pullman has played a critical role in the development of passenger railroads, the birth of the U.S. labor movement and in the civil rights era. Efforts to reverse decades of economic distress and disinvestment began with Pullman’s designation as a National Monument in 2015, with historic preservation, refurbishment of iconic structures and other activities carried out under the auspices of the U.S. National Park Service.
Amid the positive attention to the neighborhood’s architectural and historical significance, Pullman’s residents need equally focused efforts to overcoming significant barriers to good health. More than 21 percent of households fall below the poverty line, and nearly 23 percent of the population is unemployed.
With a median per capita income of just $20,588, many residents struggle to make ends meet. Buying nutritious food or attending a fitness class may be out of their budgets. And all families, even those able to purchase healthy foods, may lack the knowledge and know-how to prepare convenient and healthy meals.
To elevate the health of Pullman, along with its economy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois opened its first-ever Blue Door Neighborhood CenterSM. Focusing on face-to-face engagement, care coordination and health and wellness programs, the center aims to improve health outside a doctor’s office or clinic.
"The Blue Door Neighborhood Center builds on our commitment to driving healthier outcomes in the communities we serve in a way we haven't done before – putting us in the heart of one of our communities," said Jill Wolowitz, vice-president of government relations and community relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois worked closely with residents and local leaders to identify the most pressing community health needs – including behavioral health, physical activity, diabetes and asthma – as well as social factors that can impact health, such as job readiness and employment.
All programs are at no cost and include Zumba and yoga, classes on reading food labels and planning healthy meals, as well as social activities for seniors. During the summer months, when many lower-income students lose access to school lunches, the center serves a free meal to anyone under 18. There are workshops on smoking cessation, as well as for managing chronic conditions like asthma and diabetes. While Blue Door is open to all, on-site staff are able to help Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois' members better understand and use their coverage.
"We are proud to join Pullman residents in their journey to a healthier future,” added Wolowitz.