West Side United and Lurie Children's Launch West Side Healthy Parents and Babies Program to Address Maternal-Child Health Disparities with Support from Vice President Kamala Harris

April 16, 2024

CHICAGO — West Side United (WSU) and Lurie Children's have partnered to launch the West
Side Healthy Parents and Babies program (WSHPB), aimed at addressing critical maternal and
infant health disparities on Chicago's West Side. The program launch coincides with national
Black Maternal Health Week, April 11-17, highlighting the urgent need for interventions to
support Black mothers and infants.

A growing body of research underscores how social determinants of health, including poverty,
stress, access to safe and affordable housing, access to nutritious foods, and racism, are
significant drivers of pregnancy-related complications.

Data from the Chicago Department of Public Health indicate alarming disparities in rates of low
birth weight and preterm births in the West Side. For instance, West Garfield Park’s rates of low
birth weight are nearly triple the rates of Lakeview ( 17.2% compared to 6.9%). Chicago’s
Austin neighborhood, also part of the West Side, experienced the highest infant death rate in
the city, with 58 deaths reported between 2017 and 2021, compared to just five deaths in
Lakeview during the same period.

Infant mortality is one of the leading causes of the life expectancy gap between Chicago’s Loop
and the West Side. "Black parents and babies experience a disproportionately high maternal
and infant mortality rate. This especially impacts families on Chicago’s West Side due to the
devastating impact of years of disinvestment and inequitable access to quality, affordable health
care," stated Ayesha Jaco, executive director of West Side United. “Few existing programs
address the full spectrum of needs that a new mom and baby have from pregnancy to early

Vice President Kamala Harris added her support in a letter applauding the new program, “The
creation of this crucial program places West Side United, Lurie Children’s Hospital, and the
Chicago Westside Branch of the NAACP at the forefront of innovation in the fight to improve the
health of mothers and infants By facilitating access to essential resources, including prenatal
and postpartum care, you are all playing a vital role in supporting our Nation’s most vulnerable
and underserved communities. Your work is creating an invaluable model for other
organizations, cities, and states to follow.”

The West Side Healthy Parents and Babies program aims to address the urgent need for
comprehensive support for Black mothers and infants on the West Side by providing expectant
and new parents free support from pregnancy to the first year postpartum. Program
participants have dedicated access to support staff to answer questions about pregnancy and
early childhood, connect them to essential resources such as doulas and lactation support, and
help them with navigating the healthcare system.

"The launch of the West Side Healthy Parents and Babies program represents a significant step
forward in our collective efforts to address systemic health disparities," said Dr. Shawn Smith,
an Attending Physician at Lurie Children’s. "By addressing social determinants of health and
providing comprehensive support to new and expectant parents, we can save lives and improve
health outcomes for West Side families,” she shared.

For more information about the West Side Healthy Parents and Babies program, please visit


About West Side United

West Side United is a nationally renowned health equity collaborative that brings together six
local healthcare institutions* to work with residents, education providers, the faith community,
businesses, funders, corporate partners, community-based nonprofit organizations, government
and others, to improve health across 10 West Side neighborhoods and craft a vision for a
healthier future by addressing inequality using cross-sector, place-based approaches that
coordinate strategies, programming and investments to eradicate the racial life expectancy gap.
For more information about West Side United, Visit https://westsideunited.org.
*Ascension, Cook County Health, Lurie Children’s, Rush University Medical Center, Sinai Chicago
and UI Health

About Lurie Children’s

In the 2023-2024 U.S.News & World Report rankings of the best children’s hospitals,
Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago continues to be the top pediatric hospital in
Illinois. Lurie Children’s provides superior pediatric care in a state-of-the-art hospital that offers
the latest benefits and innovations in medical technology, family-friendly design and research
through the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute. The hub for community health
initiatives at Lurie Children’s is the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Healthy Communities. The
Magoon Institute facilitates partnerships and programs between Lurie Children’s and the
community to address root causes of health disparities and advance health equity for youth.