Center for Better Aging Bringing Whole-Person Care to Chicago’s South Side

March 31, 2024
With $122.5 million in state healthcare transformation funding, a collaborative of South Side providers will launch a whole-person model of care in July

Average life expectancy varies by 14 years or more between Chicago communities, according to a Chicago Health Atlas analysis, with higher rates of preventable hospitalization among Black older adults.  The Center for Better Aging (CBA) located at St. Bernard Hospital, will open in July with a health equity mandate to serve the growing 50+ population on Chicago's Greater South Side. 

With $122.5 million in state healthcare transformation funding and a central hub for medical care and community outreach, the CBA collaborative of South Side providers has designed a whole-person model of care. A team of physicians, nurse practitioners, specialists and social workers will use technology and timely follow-ups to help give aging adults more knowledge of their conditions to take steps toward long, active lives.

Provider partners in the CBA collaborative include Chicago State University, Chicago Commons, Complete Care Management Partners, DL3 Realty, Smyl Fitness Rx, SPARC Wellness, University of Illinois Hospital & Health Sciences System and Wilkes Wellness Services. 

"A whole-person, collaborative approach will be vital to closing the life expectancy gap in the greater South Side community," said Center for Better Aging Executive Director  Estrelitta Harmon, in a statement.”There is a shortage of primary care doctors on the South Side, and few are trained in the health issues specific to the 50+ population. CBA partners will elevate the standard of aging adult care and focus on what matters to each patient.” Harmon is a former healthcare consultant and senior leader for the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Englewood has one of the lowest-ranked communities for life expectancy–68.1 years in 2020, vs, 81.9 years in Forest Glen and 81.1 years on the Near North Side. The community is the heart of the Center for Better Aging initiative. CBA will complete construction in July on medical offices at the St. Bernard Hospital Ambulatory Care Center, located next to the hospital at 6307 S. Stewart Ave. CBA will offer an end-to-end preventive care service with home safety checks, social determinants of health assessments, coordinated services, telehealth options and educational outreach to extend aging adult resources into the community. 

Grant Supports Aging and Longevity Solutions

St. Bernard Hospital is the lead partner in securing a $122.5 million grant from the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to fund the nonprofit CBA under the state Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) agency’s Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives program. The CBA partners also work to renovate the hospital through capital investments, increase access through robust digital investments and build the healthcare workforce on Chicago's South Side.

"The inequities and barriers to access that exist in health care for communities of color are challenges that can be especially difficult for older adults to navigate, because they may be facing a range of complex health issues as they age," said HFS Director Elizabeth Whitehorn, J.D., in a statement.  "The goal of the Healthcare Transformation Collaboratives program is to create equitable healthcare access by implementing solutions that are uniquely tailored to the needs in the communities each collaborative serves. HFS is excited to continue this partnership with the Center for Better Aging, as we work together to reduce disparities, better serve customers and ultimately improve health outcomes in South Side communities."

The St. Bernard location offers older adults an all-in-one healthcare hub with advanced diagnostic equipment and the South Side's only geriatric-certified ER. The newly renovated ambulatory care center features CT and digital mammography units and a relaxation suite. Primary and urgent care, emergency, diagnostics and geriatric pharmacy services are all closely located on the campus. 

"Having the CBA health center on campus will assure proper follow-up care and reduce patients' risk of a return to the ER," said St. Bernard Hospital President and CEO Charles Holland, in a statement.  "St. Bernard is one of only three accredited geriatric emergency departments in the City of Chicago. As a safety net hospital, we are committed to ensuring lifelong health and advancing health equity for everyone on the South Side." 

CBA has recruited geriatric primary and specialty providers to address age-related conditions onsite at the health center. Aging adult resources include geriatric mental and behavioral care, with screening for difficulty with comprehension, self-care, and cognitive functions.

Providers will support mobility and longevity with physical therapy and fall risk prevention to help patients stay active in the community. Community partners connect patients to social activities and other aging adult resources to support their needs beyond the clinical setting. 

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