ChicagoCHEC’s first annual report will raise cancer awareness in Chicago’s minority communities

CHICAGO — The Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC), a National Cancer Institute-funded initiative to reduce cancer disparity in Chicago’s low-income neighborhoods, will host its First Annual Community Report and Symposium from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 29, at Chicago’s Malcolm X College, 1900 W. Jackson Blvd.

The free, all-day symposium will be open to the public and provide a detailed look at the ongoing work of the ChicagoCHEC partnership, led by researchers from the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northeastern Illinois University.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, low-income Chicago communities that are predominantly African-American or Latino face cancer death rates up to double the national average.

“We’re establishing an innovative, community-driven and collaborative platform to foster meaningful cancer research, education, training and outreach across the Metropolitan Chicagoland area,” said Dr. Melissa A. Simon, the George H. Gardner, MD, Professor of Clinical Gynecology in obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and co-director of the Lurie Cancer Center’s Cancer Control and Survivorship Research Program. “Our goal is to transform how community engagement and research are conducted, thus changing the architecture of how we collectively improve health equity.”

The symposium will feature a panel of public health care providers, a town hall forum and networking opportunities to mobilize Chicago communities in the areas of cancer survivorship, health care access and delivery, research and clinical trials, community capacity building and cancer health education.

A diverse panel of cancer survivors will discuss their journeys, including how they have accessed services and how community organizations have supported them.

Dr. Linda Rae Murray, the former chief medical officer from Cook County Health and Hospital System, and breast cancer survivor Roz Varon, the Emmy Award-winning traffic/transportation anchor for ABC 7, will deliver keynote speeches at the event. Cook County Commissioner, 7th District, Jesus Garcia will deliver the final keynote address to close the event.

“The racial and ethnic disparities in health care outcomes are an alarming and urgent public health issue,” said Dr. Robert Winn, associate vice president for community-based practice at UI Health, director of the University of Illinois Cancer Center and professor of medicine at the UIC College of Medicine. “As we seek to end these disparities in Chicago, I am excited that three institutions are at the table — together with the community — asking how can we can better conduct research and reach diverse communities. We know the traditional top-down approach isn’t working, so it’s time to engage with the community in a new way.”

The community steering committee of ChicagoCHEC is at the heart of the coalition’s efforts, according to Dr. Moira Stuart, associate professor of health, physical education, recreation and athletics at Northeastern.

“The 20-plus key community stakeholders on the committee represent the diversity of Chicago communities related to race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation and disability,” Stuart said. “Our community steering committee is central to guiding the strategic efforts to foster meaningful partnerships across Chicago communities.”

According to Christina Ciecierski, associate professor of economics at Northeastern Illinois University:

“In addition to community and institutional partnerships, supporting collaborative research to improve cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and survivorship is an essential element of this partnership.”

Joanne Glenn, co-chair of the ChicagoCHEC community steering committee, said she attended the town hall meeting last year that launched ChicagoCHEC because she wanted to hear about an effort that didn’t just “talk the talk.”

“ChicagoCHEC is a first-of-its-kind collaboration across academia, research and community in the Midwest, and I am honored to be involved in something that is addressing and identifying the community needs by involving diverse community partners and constituents,” Glenn said. “Thanks for ‘walking the walk,’ CHEC.”

The Symposium will kick off a series of local community events taking place in Chicago through 2016 and 2017. More information about ChicagoCHEC, the symposium and event registration can be found on

By Kristin Samuelson