Chicago Park District Aims to Improve Neighborhood Health Through Park Access

The district will offer free admission to fitness centers from March 18 to the 24th

If you live in a Chicago neighborhood with a high rate of diabetes or obesity, the key to improving your health may be a short walk away.

The Chicago Park District is urging residents to get active by offering free admission to its citywide fitness centers from March 18-24.  The Chicago Park District said 99.6% of city residents live within a 10 minute walk to a park, where this is access to park features that promote wellness.  More than 70 parks have fitness centers.  Those without fitness centers offer access to tracks, gyms and pools.

“The wide range of options we offer allow people at all fitness levels to find the right workout,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent and CEO Michael P. Kelly.

The Obesity Gap

Source: CDC, Census Bureau
Credit: Sam Hart/NBC

A recent NBC 5 Investigates report focused on the glaring health disparities between some Chicago area neighborhoods.

For example, people living on the South Side of Chicago are as much as 14 times more likely to have diabetes than residents near Wrigley Field. Fifty percent of the residents of Gary, Indiana, are living with high blood pressure compared to 25.9% of residents in Naperville. In Waukegan, the median obesity rate is 35.4% compared to 24.1% in Schaumburg.

That’s according to the 500 Cities Project, a joint effort of the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 500 Cities provides a close-up view of the health of 100 million Americans living in 27,000 neighborhoods in all 50 states, including hundreds of census tracts in Greater Chicago.

The Diabetes Gap

Source: CDC, Census Bureau
Credit: Sam Hart/NBC

Dr. Monica Peek of the South Side Diabetes Project said Chicago’s current health disparities were shaped by policies put in place years ago. 

“We have to think about undoing those policies and reshaping communities if we really want to see improvements in health, as well as treating people proactively, preventatively and treating existing chronic conditions that they come to the hospital with in a way that’s fair, equitable and just,” Peek said.

According to the Chicago Park District, membership rates are affordable and generally range from $30-$60 for three months.

The Chicago Park District also offers three months of free access to residents with a BMI over 26 and an obesity-related chronic disease.  A doctor’s prescription is required for the fitness waiver.   

For more information, residents can visit the CPD's website. 

The Blood Pressure Gap

Source: CDC, Census Bureau
Credit: Sam Hart/NBC

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