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- Consider the community you grew up in. How would you define it? Describe an unwritten division in the community that people who live in the community know about but a visitor would not.
- Take a walk in your community from one end to the other end on a main street. How would you describe how the neighborhood changes?
- Imagine taking a walk in your community in the year you were born compared to now. How would you describe the neighborhood. What has changed? What has stayed the same?
- How could neighborhood conditions from decades ago influence the health of residents today? Does history really matter?
- Harris (1927) quotes a Chicago Whip editorial which stated: “If it is not the duty of the city to make all parts of the city a healthy place in which to live, it is certainly the duty of a community to see that it gets all that the city has to give for the protection of health”. Consider the first part of sentence, “If it is not the duty of the city…”. Should this be the duty of the city?
- Contrast figures 1.5 and 1.6 (detailing Black and White mortality rates from tuberculosis over time) with figures 10.1 later in the book (detailing Black and White mortality rates for breast cancer). How are these patterns similar, how are different?
- Harris (1927) doesn’t use the term “social determinants of health” (which came into our lexicon only recently). Yet clearly he is describing social factors that adversely affect the health of Black people in Chicago. What are the factors that he describes? Are they fundamentally different than the factors you might associate with poor health today?
- Faris and Dunham’s chapter builds on an important model from the “Chicago School” of sociology – the concentric zone theory of the city (see figure 2.1). Does this model reflect the city as you know it today?
- Faris and Dunham grapple with the question of causality – describing the “drift hypothesis”. What does this hypothesis imply? Is it relevant to our understanding of health inequities today?
- Drake and Cayton add the first substantial piece of qualitative data to our story. What do their interview excerpts reveal? Why might qualitative data be particularly useful in health equity advocacy?
- Abraham’s Mama Might Be Better Off Dead focuses on the plight of one family, living in poverty amidst the scientific marvels of the Illinois Medical District. What does the experience of the Banes family teach us?
- Does this section of the book reflect your experiences of Chicago? If you follow Sampson’s footsteps along Michigan Avenue, do you observe similar things, or do you come to different conclusions about the city’s divisions? Or do you have a different perspective?
- Imagine that you were the Health Commissioner of the City of Chicago in 1925 and you just read Harris’ article calling out health inequities. How would you have found a solution? Would you follow Harris’ suggestions or would you do something different?
Bonner, T. (1957). Medicine in Chicago. Madison: American History Research Center.
Klinenberg, E. (2003). Heatwave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Robert J. Sampson: Neighborhood Effects and the Contemporary CityCommunity is not dead. Hear Harvard University's Robert J. Sampson unveil the results of a 15-year landmark research project in Chicago and share the social phenomena that mold our neighborhoods.
About Chicago Ideas Week
Chicago Ideas Week is an annual seven-day celebration of ideas, innovation and community, aiming to become the platform for ideas, created for innovators, thinkers, doers. CIW's goal is to stimulate new initiatives and ventures, create new connections and collaborations, and establish a community of people who have the desire to achieve great things. Learn more: www.chicagoideas.com
Chicago's Heat Wave, 20 Years LaterIn the summer of 1995, Chicago experienced the deadliest heat wave in American history. Streets buckled, power grids failed, and when the heat finally broke, more than 700 people were dead. The questions of why so many people perished, and why their deaths were so easy to deny, ignore, or forget, preoccupied Eric Klinenberg. He uncovered unsettling forms of social breakdown – the isolation of seniors, the abandonment of poor neighborhoods, and the retrenchment of public assistance programs – which led him to write "Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago." Drawing on his experience as research director for the federal Rebuild By Design competition after Superstorm Sandy, he also discovered that global warming makes these issues all the more dangerous and argues that cities must adapt, or face worse incidents in the future.
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