When we talk about the uneven distribution of resources and opportunities in Chicago, just as in any other city in this country, we are talking about race. Across City departments, we are working more intentionally to close equity gaps and dismantle government-created barriers to full participation in the American dream – but we lack an explicit and systematic plan to implement racial equity frameworks. The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) is leaning into this fundamental mission and supporting City partners in their efforts.
CDPH is committed to promoting and improving health by engaging residents, communities and partners in establishing and implementing policies and services that prioritize residents and communities with the greatest need. In 2016, CDPH and Mayor Emanuel launched Healthy Chicago 2.0, our plan to improve health equity in Chicago, which really means improving racial equity. It is an ambitious plan with more than 200 outward facing strategies-addressing traditional public health issues that adversely impact black and brown Chicagoans like substance use and tobacco prevention. The plan also addresses the root causes of health including education, housing and economic opportunity.
At the same time, CDPH launched a new strategic plan focused on the internal changes we needed to make as an organization. Our strategic plan focuses directly on addressing racial equity within our own department – with the goal of becoming a stronger, more equitable team that can then build a stronger, more equitable city. Among the changes CDPH is currently focused on are:
- Reviewing our hiring practices and have added language requirements so our staff can communicate in a wide variety of languages -from Spanish to Polish to Mandarin.
- Updating our standard RFP language to highlight gender and racial equity issues.
- Launched a staff Cultural Leadership Team, which brings together voices from across our department to implement the goals of the strategic plan and to provide ongoing feedback and leadership to ensure we are improving racial equity across the department.
- Building our capacity to sustain this work by hiring the Department’s first ever Director of Equity.