issue Spring 2022

Improving Access: Northshore Partnership Is Key to Health Equity

By Sara Skoog
Lupe Rodriguez, APN, second from left, director of community care for the Rosalind Franklin University Health Clinics, with Community Care Connection team members.

Rosalind Franklin University is committed to reducing the health disparities that exist in its own community and surrounding areas in Lake County, Illinois. The differences in life expectancy and health measures between high- and low-income towns in Lake County, combined with high incidence of preventable and manageable disease in lower-income areas, underscore the need to bring free health services to underserved and under-resourced regions.

A generous gift of more than $680,000 provided by NorthShore University HealthSystem’s Community Investment Fund (CIF), which aims to improve health equity for residents of underserved communities, will support the efforts of RFU’s Community Care Connection to improve healthcare access for those in greatest need. The partnership and support from NorthShore will help extend the hours of operation of RFU’s mobile outreach, which means more residents will receive essential health screenings, health education and connections to additional healthcare resources for individuals who lack a medical home.

RFU is one of just seven recipient organizations selected by NorthShore to collaborate on programs that enhance health and well-being, advance health equity and support local economic growth. The university was granted the largest portion of the $2.6 million total distributed among the seven awardees in this first round of CIF grants.

The Care Coach visits a site in Lake County, Illinois.

“We are grateful for NorthShore’s support, which will allow us to expand our work with community partners to provide primary care services and health education for our neighbors most in need,” said RFU President and CEO Wendy Rheault, PT, PhD, FASAHP, FNAP, DipACLM. “We will continue to seek out philanthropic partners who will join forces with us to improve the well-being of communities.”

The Community Care Connection’s Care Coach provides mobile health services staffed by licensed healthcare professionals throughout Lake County, bringing residents a variety of free health screenings for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cholesterol and osteoporosis, as well as vaccinations and health-education programs. For many underserved residents in the Lake County community, the Community Care Connection is their first step toward better long-term health.

Sara Skoog is a staff writer with the RFU Division of Marketing and Brand Management. In addition to writing for Helix and other university publications, she also produces Pulse, RFU’s monthly e-newsletter.

Community Care Connection Facts

  • Primarily serves patients in Antioch, Gurnee, Highwood, Mundelein, Round Lake, Round Lake Park, Waukegan and Zion who may be unable to access reliable health resources due to a lack of transportation, citizenship status, financial issues and other social conditions that frequently contribute to poor health.
  • Travels to more than 30 established sites and partner organizations throughout Lake County, including village halls, schools, senior centers, shelters, food pantries, social service agencies, libraries, churches and community centers.
  • Nearly 80% of Community Care Connection patients are of a minority race or ethnicity — primarily Black and Latinx — and 42% speak Spanish as their preferred language.
  • Annually saves 400 quality-adjusted life years, reduces emergency department usage by approximately 650 visits and results in almost $30 million in total cost savings.
  • In late 2021, averaged five pop-up vaccination and wellness screenings per week. With additional staff and services, operations could be expanded by at least 25% over the next year.