Kane health equity report shows blacks more likely to be unhealthy
Black Kane County residents are more likely to be poor, sick and addicted and die younger, according to the first health equity report by the county health department. If that news isn't grim enough, their babies are also less likely to survive.
Health department officials unveiled the report Wednesday. The study works toward addressing the health equity plank in the plan to become the healthiest county in Illinois. The county ranked No. 7 in the most recent health comparison of the state's 102 counties.
Health department officials compiled the study to provide a baseline of the current disparities among the county's various populations. Non-Hispanic black residents stood out for having poorer health outcomes in almost every measure health officials explored.
Kane County has the highest percentage of minority residents outside Cook County. Black residents represent about 6 percent of the local population.
One key contributing factor to the relative bad health of the black community is poverty. The study found nearly one-third of black residents live below the federal poverty level. The percentage is twice as high as the next largest impoverished group, Hispanics.
Pingree Grove, Carpentersville, Aurora, East Dundee, Elgin and Big Rock all have poverty rates above the county average.
Health department Executive Director Barb Jeffers in April identified a lack of advanced education and resulting income challenges as a major factor for residents dealing with poor health. The study released Wednesday also indicated those factors contribute to an early death.
Cancer, heart disease and cerebrovascular disease are the leading causes of death in the county. Black Kane County residents suffer from all those conditions at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity.
Theresa Heaton, the health department's director of health promotion, said the next step is to figure out how to address those disparities in partnership with a range of community groups.
"It can't be just one thing," she said. "Our public health partners are so much more aware and looking at these issues together. As our health equity team continues to move forward, we will do our own evaluation to identify tools we will implement with our health partners."
As an example, Heaton pointed to ongoing work with food hubs and community gardens to push healthy food options into areas of the county where there is a dearth of local farming and produce.