The University of Chicago's long-term commitment to improving health and access to quality care for the South Side of Chicago

The Urban Health Initiative (UHI) is the University of Chicago Medical Center’s long-term commitment to improving health and access to quality care for the South Side of Chicago through patient care, community-based research and medical education. We are working to establish strong, lasting relationships with civic leaders, community organizations, health care providers and residents to develop a comprehensive health care system that is rooted in collaboration. The UHI is designed to encourage wellness and connect patients to the care they need.

The South Side is a vibrant, resilient, culturally‐rich, and storied collection of neighborhoods that is steeped in its heritage as a historic African American community. It is nourished by deep social bonds, active community organizations and anchored by vital faith‐based organizations. It is also one of the nation's largest underserved communities and a place where the ills of a dysfunctional national health care system are a daily reality. Here, more than 800,000 residents contend with elevated rates of diabetes, hypertension, asthma, and other chronic, debilitating ‐- but avoidable ‐- conditions.

These health outcomes do not occur in a vacuum. They reflect well‐publicized, systemic dysfunctions in the nation's health care system that disproportionately afflict underserved communities where lack of health insurance or incomplete coverage is endemic, access to care poor, and local health care systems are often substantially less than the sum of their parts. But they are rooted also in a nexus of socio‐economic and environmental circumstances that lie beyond the point of medical care ‐- low income, truncated education, an elevated incidence of violent crime, unemployment rates that are among the highest in the nation, and chronic underinvestment.

Patient Care

The Urban Health Initiative focuses on preventive care, connecting residents with a regular doctor at one of more than 30 partner community health centers and local hospitals in the South Side Healthcare Collaborative. Studies show that when people have a relationship with a regular doctor they experience fewer visits to the emergency room, early and more accurate diagnoses, and are better equipped to take charge of their wellness.


The Urban Health Initiative also encourages community-based medicine through medical education curricula. University of Chicago Medical Center physicians, interns and medical students are working in facilities throughout the South Side through Community-Based Medical Education programs and tuition reimbursement programs like the Repayment for Education to Alumni in Community Health (REACH) program.


Understanding the environmental factors that impact health is also a critical component of the Urban Health Initiative. Through the Center for Community Health and Vitality and the South Side Health and Vitality Studies we are working with community leaders and residents to map community resources and track the impact of the South Side environment on health and wellness with the ultimate goal of improving preventive care.

Urban Health Initiative – Uniting to build a healthy community!