Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project: Ensuring health equity for suburban immigrant families

February 20, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Thanks to funding from Edward-Elmhurst Health (EEH), a new Health Justice Initiative is bringing health equity to suburban immigrant communities.

This initiative is being funded through EEH’s Community Investment Fund. In July 2022, EEH awarded $3,994,000 to 14 organizations across Cook, DuPage and Will Counties to advance health equity and support local economic growth.

The Southwest Suburban Immigrant Project (SSIP) was founded in 2010 to ensure equitable access to resources for the growing immigrant population in the suburbs of Will and DuPage Counties. 

“Immigrant families are moving into the suburbs, but the resources are not moving with them, and that’s where SSIP comes in,” says Jose Vera, Executive Director of SSIP. “Our mission is to empower immigrant communities.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, SSIP recognized that suburban immigrant families did not have access to critical health resources due to language and other barriers.

“The pandemic really highlighted the importance of health and health justice,” says Vera. “Not enough resources or vaccines were being equitably distributed in black and brown communities in the suburbs, and there were no Spanish-speaking testing centers for COVID in the first and most deadly part of the pandemic.”

In response, SSIP created the Health Justice Initiative to connect culturally competent community health workers with families who need help navigating the healthcare system. 

The Initiative helps families with things like identifying a primary health physician, providing medical debt relief education and referrals to federally qualified health community clinics and ensuring families know their rights when seeking healthcare. SSIP also trained health navigators to be trusted community messengers to spread information about the availability of COVID testing and vaccines.

Funding from EEH will enable SSIP is seeking to expand the Health Justice Initiative in order to better serve more suburban immigrant families.

“There is not enough social infrastructure to respond to the growing needs of the immigrant community,” says Vera. “The Community Investment Fund is helping us build that infrastructure.” 

In addition to helping families navigate the healthcare system, this year the Initiative enrolled more than 500 families in Medicaid, many of whom now have health insurance for the first time.

“We're seeing folks get access to care for conditions that were going untreated,” said Vera. “The more insured people, the better it is for our community.”
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