A HEALTHY ILLINOIS
The U of I System stands proudly as one of the key drivers of access to quality healthcare in the state through UI Health and its hospital and network of clinics, the College of Medicine and School of Nursing at University of Illinois Chicago and the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.
No one educated more doctors and nurses in Illinois. But creating and maintaining a healthy Illinois requires more than providing medical care. To be truly healthy, the people of our state need access to good nutrition, safe places for their children to be cared for while they work, and stable communities where they can live, work and got to school. The system is hard at work to provide solutions in all these areas.
WASTEWATER MONITORING GIVES ILLINOIS AN EARLY LOOK AT COVID-19 OUTBREAKS
Wastewater testing led by University of Illinois Chicago researchers and the Discovery Partners Institute (DPI) has been instrumental in tracking COVID-19 in Chicago and across the state.
DPI and the Chicago Department of Public Health maintain a citywide system to monitor the virus that causes COVID-19 in wastewater, while statewide monitoring happens in partnership with the Illinois Department of Public Health.
The U of I System’s Shield T3 Health and DPI also offer a similar service to state and local governments outside of Illinois.
“What wastewater does is give you a snapshot of what’s happening today with about a week lead time on what we might see in terms of volume of cases,” Charlie Catlett, a senior research scientist at DPI, said in an interview with Crain’s Chicago Business.
NEW CARLE ILLINOIS GRANT FOSTERS HEALING AND HEALTH EQUITY AMONG CHICAGO YOUTH
A MacArthur Foundation grant is funding a program led by Carle Illinois College of Medicine’s Ruby Mendenhall to improve the health and wellness of mostly Black and Hispanic high school students in Chicago.
Mendenhall and her research team are using the $500,000 grant to create programming and wellness tools, including art, to foster healing from racial trauma such as gun violence.
“It is our hope to have this culture of innovation so embedded in the young people’s lives that it permeates all areas of their health and well-being and fosters community healing, especially in neighborhoods with high levels of violence,” said Mendenhall, professor of sociology and African American studies and associate dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at Carle Illinois.
The program collaborates with 50 community-based, government and university organizations.
UIS PROGRAM PARTNERS WITH FIRM TO BUILD CHILD-PROTECTION TRAINING APPS
The University of Illinois Springfield Child Advocacy Studies Program (CAST) partnered with Virginia-based Creative Information Technology Inc. to build apps the child-protection workforce and students across the country can use.
CAST students serve as the first beta testers for the apps, which will help investigators and students make better decisions about protecting at-risk children.
“UIS students will have the opportunity to help shape these new tools by using real-world scenarios to test and improve the apps’ abilities,” said Betsy Goulet, UIS clinical assistant professor and Child Advocacy Studies Program coordinator.
The new apps will feature a modern mash-up of child welfare best practices, experiential and simulated learning, evidence-based tools, cross-sector collaboration and technology innovation.
ILLINOIS INNOVATION AT WORK
The onset of COVID-19 in March 2020 in many ways brought life to a screeching halt. Colleges and universities across the country sent students home and pivoted to online instruction.
But recognizing the need to return to the classroom, University of Illinois System President Tim Killeen set a goal to re-open the system’s three universities for their more than 90,000 students that August.
The challenge was to find a way to test students, staff and faculty multiple times a week to prevent COVID outbreaks. The existing nasopharyngeal PCR test was costly, subject to supply-chain bottlenecks because of its use worldwide, invasive, slow to deliver results and relatively inaccurate.
A team was assembled from the professors and researchers across the system to look for a viable alternative. Martin Burke, a chemistry professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, tapped biologists, epidemiologists, chemists, physicists, data scientists and engineers. Members of the team would create SHIELD, the fast, accurate and non-invasive saliva-based test that would allow U of I students to successfully and safely resume classes.
Through a partnership with the state of Illinois, the test was rolled out beyond the universities through SHIELD Illinois, a system unit. About 1 million students and staff in K-12 schools across the state used SHIELD during the 2021-22 school year. The test was also used at 57 colleges and universities in Illinois, the state General Assembly, and some federal courts. More than 30 community testing sites were open to the public, as well. In its quest to extend the use of the SHIELD test outside of Illinois, the U of I System also set up Shield T3, a for-profit company. Shield T3 has signed deals with more than 150 businesses and other organizations outside Illinois to use the SHIELD test.
REPORT EXPLORES HOW COVID-19 POLICIES FAILED BLACK, LATINO CHICAGOANS
The University of Illinois Chicago’s Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy shared a host of serious challenges in its report "Deadly Disparities in the Time of COVID-19: How Public Policy Fails Black and Latinx Chicagoans."
- Low-income and working-class Chicagoans did not have a safety net to rely on.
- COVID-19 response prioritized middle-class Americans and protection of the economy.
- Social assistance made available during the pandemic did not meet existing needs and required extensive bureaucratic proof.
“In this report, Chicago becomes both a lens for assessing the federal approach to COVID-19, as well as a means of auditing Chicago-specific policies and their successes and weaknesses,” said Claire Decoteau, UIC professor of sociology.
UI HEALTH POST-COVID CLINIC SERVES THOSE WHO NEED LONG-TERM TREATMENT
The emergence of long COVID as a serious health condition that can hurt quality of life created challenges for patients and healthcare providers.
So UI Health created a clinic dedicated to caring for patients who experience symptoms ranging from fatigue and brain fog to anxiety and depression weeks or even months after having COVID-19.
The UI Health Post-COVID Clinic provides patients a dedicated navigator who can facilitate access to multiple specialists from a range of disciplines.
“Our goal is to bring them easy access to the primary and specialty care that they need,” said Dr. Jonathan Radosta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois Chicago and chief medical officer for ambulatory clinics at UI Health.
“Our goal is to bring them easy access to the primary and specialty care that they need.”
MCKECHNIE FAMILY LIFE HOME OPENS DOORS TO ABILITY-FOCUSED ADVANCES
A cutting-edge research center that mimics homes to provide for the development of next-generation smart homes opened at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The smart homes will allow people of all ages and abilities to live fuller, healthier, and autonomous lives.
The McKechnie Family LIFE Home was the vision of kinesiology and community health professor Wendy Rogers.
“Our vision is to develop technologies that can support quality of life in the home for everyone, people of all ages and abilities,” she said. “We want to think about all of the activities that occur in the home from fundamental activities of daily living such as bathing, eating, mobility through to the enhanced activities of daily living such as social engagement, community participation and lifelong learning.”
The primary donors for the home are Jim and Karen McKechnie (above).
UI HEALTH OPENS DOORS TO BETTER HEALTH IN CHICAGO NEIGHBORHOODS
UI Health secured approval from the Board of Trustees to open a new Mile Square clinic and center in Auburn Gresham bringing vital healthcare access to the underserved community on Chicago’s far South Side.
The UI Health Mile Square Health Center is just part of the Auburn Gresham Healthy Lifestyle Hub at 79th Street and Halsted Avenue.
The clinic will treat 11,000 patients annually and have as many as 21,000 visits per year, with a focus on immediate care and community-based safety. The clinic will also provide behavioral health and mental health services.
UIC RESEARCHERS AWARDED $7.1M FOR BLACK MIDWIVES PROGRAM
A new healthcare program developed by University of Illinois Chicago researchers and Melanated Group Midwifery Care aims to combat disparities that affect maternal and infant outcomes for pregnant Black women.
The program is being funded by a five-year, $7.1 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a nonprofit authorized by Congress to fund research that will provide patients, caregivers and clinicians the evidence-based information they need to make better-informed healthcare decisions. Black women are four times as likely to die from complications related to pregnancy or birth than white women, and an estimated two-thirds of those deaths could be prevented.
“We need to change the whole paradigm, beginning with centering the needs and expertise of Black mothers,” said Kylea Liese, UIC assistant professor of human development nursing science and co-principal investigator.
YOUNG CHILDREN EXPELLED LESS OFTEN AFTER NEW LAW
Surveys of early childhood professionals show education and childcare programs expelled their young charges less often during the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.
“It is notable that far fewer children are being expelled now than before the law’s passage,” Kate Zinsser said of legislation aimed at fewer expulsions. Zinsser serves as principal investigator at the Social-Emotional Teaching and Learning Lab at University of Illinois Chicago.
The 2021 survey also asked questions about how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted programs’ actions around children with challenging behavior. COVID-19-related closures were associated with one additional expulsion per every 1,000 children enrolled compared with the prior year.
'CRIP*' EXHIBITION SPOTLIGHTS DIABILITY ACCESS EXPERIENCES
Krannert Art Museum (KAM) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign hosted an exhibition of artists whose work addresses disability or non-normative identities and reflects their experiences.
Liza Sylvestre, KAM’s curator of academic programs, said Crip* refers to “crip theory,” which considers not just disability but also race, sexual identity, class and educational status, as well as how those identities connect and overlap.
“All of these things have everything to do with access and inclusion. It’s very seldom someone has just one of those identities,” said Sylvestre, who is deaf.
The exhibition also considers ways to increase accessibility in art institutions. It is part of a larger collaborative project, “Cripping the Arts,” funded by the Presidential Initiative: Expanding the Impact of the Arts and the Humanities.