Availability of Community Resources for Chicago Parents
Community resources such as healthcare clinics, parks and libraries can help people live healthier lives and access beneficial services. However, access to resources and services is something that many families struggle with in their local communities, and sometimes it can be hard to find information about what resources are available for families.
In this month’s Voices of Child Health in Chicago Report, in partnership with the Patrick M. Magoon Institute for Health Communities at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, we explore parent perceptions of available resources within their community. We asked over 1,000 Chicago parents from all 77 community areas in the city about the availability of resources and services to help their families, and how parents prefer to learn about services and resources to support overall parent, child and adolescent wellbeing.
- Among all community resources, parents reported the highest access to healthcare clinics followed by parks, pharmacies and libraries.
- Access to recreation resources such as parks and recreational programming differed by parent race and ethnicity.
- Parents were most interested in learning about community resources and services through the internet or a healthcare provider, although there were differences in parents’ preferences by parental characteristics.
Perceptions of community health services and resources available to meet family needs
We asked parents what kinds of services and resources are available to meet the needs of their children, teens and families (Figure 1). Parents reported having high levels of access to traditional healthcare facilities like healthcare clinics (81%) and pharmacies (76%), but lower access to mental health or counseling services for youth (54%) and adults (44%). Access to healthcare resources differed by demographic factors; for instance, Black parents reported less access to healthcare clinics (73%) compared to white parents (86%). Additionally, non-white families, families with lower household incomes (<100% of FPL) and families with lower parental education reported less access to mental health services for youth and adults.
Differences in access to recreation and education resources
Among recreational and educational resources, the most available to families were parks (78%), followed by libraries (75%), school-based afterschool programs (60%), recreational programs (59%) and sports or exercise programs (54%). Parks were similarly available to families regardless of parent race/ethnicity, parent education and household income.
Differences in other recreation access were reported by parent race and ethnicity, parent education and household income, with non-Hispanic White families and families with higher incomes reporting greater access. For instance, 82% of white parents and 79% of Asian/other-race parents reported having access to a library, but only 71% of Latinx/Hispanic parents and 68% of Black parents reported access to a library. Access to recreation programs (e.g., park district programs) also varied by parent demographic characteristics, with White parents reporting more access to these programs than parents of other races/ethnicities (75% vs. 51%-56%) and parents with higher household income reporting more access than parents with lower household income (73% vs. 48%-53%).
Access to other specialty assistance resources
Among all parents, lower levels of resource availability were reported for specialized assistance programs like employment services (41%), housing assistance (37%), financial assistance (37%), transportation assistance (35%), legal services (33%), disability services (28%) and immigration services (24%).
How do parents prefer to learn about services and resources?
Beyond availability of services and resources, we asked parents how they would prefer to find or learn about services and resources to meet their family needs. Parents were most likely to report wanting to find or learn about services via the internet (68%), followed by a child’s healthcare provider (56%), child’s school or daycare (49%), from a friend or family (49%) or through a community-based organization (42%). Only one in five parents reported wanting to learn from religious organizations such as churches, temples, synagogues or mosques (19%).
Parent preferences differed based on sociodemographic characteristics
HOUSEHOLD INCOME AND PARENT EDUCATION LEVEL
Parent preferences for learning about services and resources varied based on parent characteristics including parent race/ethnicity, parent education, household income and parent age. While two in three parents reported wanting to learn about services and resources over the internet overall, parents with lower incomes (less than 100% of the federal poverty level [FPL], which was $27,750 for a family of four in 2022) and less education had a lower overall preference for obtaining information about resources via the internet compared to higher income and higher educated parents. This may be connected to access to internet/mobile resources.
PARENT RACE/ETHNICITY AND CITY REGION
Asian/other-race parents reported higher preferences for learning about services and resources from friends and family compared with other groups (63% vs. 41–50%). Black parents were more likely than parents of other races/ethnicities to report preferences for learning about services and resources at community events (40% vs. 25–34%) and through community-based organizations compared to other groups (51% vs. 33–45%). Preferences for learning about resources at a community event also differed by city region: 53% of parents from the South region and 41% from the West region preferred to learn about resources at community events compared with 23% from the North region and 25% from the Central region.
Younger parents (18–25 years) had lower preferences for learning about services and resources from healthcare providers (33%), child(ren)’s school/ daycare (20%), or community organizations (25%) compared with older parents (35+ years; 56%, 50%, 42%, respectively).
Understanding parents’ access to community resources and their preferences for receiving information about services and resources may help providers and community organizations better publicize available services and resources to meet families’ needs. To improve access to resources, it is important that community organizations ensure their communication plans use multiple methods to share information about resources and services, and that information is shared by a variety of trusted sources. Ensuring that communication plans include sharing health and wellness information in various ways, by different kinds of trusted sources, may improve access and overall health.