Chicago: Healthy Chicago Equity Zones

2022 Bull’s-Eye Award Winner


Target Chicago populations hardest hit by COVID-19 through focused community-driven programs overseen by the Healthy Chicago Equity Zones (HCEZ) program.


The COVID-19 pandemic did not affect all communities in the same way.  In Chicago, Latinx people accounted for 34% of all COVID-19 cases despite being just 29% of the total population.  Similarly, Black and Latinx Chicagoans combined represented about 72% of COVID-19 deaths while comprising just 59% of the population.  The Chicago COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI), a tool developed by the Chicago Department of Health, showed that specific communities within Chicago were particularly vulnerable to barriers to COVID-19 vaccine uptake.


The Chicago Department of Public Health developed the Healthy Chicago Equity Zones (HCEZ) program – modeled off Rhode Island’s Health Equity Zone (HEZ) initiative.  The purpose of HCEZ was to target communities that ranked at medium or high vulnerability for severe COVID-19 outcomes per the Chicago COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI).  Chicago was divided into six regions, each with a regional lead.  Furthermore, each region incorporated several community leads.  Together, the region and community leads were responsible for organizing outreach and engagement activities within their communities.  Activities included volunteer recruitment, community vaccination events, outreach campaigns, and other hyperlocal activities promoting vaccination.

The HCEZ initiative ran primarily from December 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022, with one region continuing to carry out its vaccine outreach activities through December 31, 2022.  The funding for the project came from the CDC Immunization and Vaccines for Children Grant – COVID Supplemental Funding.  The funding was distributed to the regional and community leads based on their need as determined by the Chicago COVID-19 Community Vulnerability Index (CCVI).  Funding and activity levels were constantly adjusted to meet the needs of specific communities throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.


The HCEZ initiative reached nearly 200,000 Chicagoans and supported almost 20,000 COVID-19 vaccines.  Many of those vaccinations went to Chicago’s hardest-hit and underserved communities.  Chicago Department of Public Health stated that although vaccine access is a crucial issue, vaccine hesitance or indifference was a significant factor in whether a person chose to become vaccinated regardless of vaccine convenience or accessibility.

Associated Files: Chicago Healthy Chicago Equity Zones 2022.pdf

Years: 2021, 2022

Locations: Chicago

Programmatic Areas: COVID-19

Key Words: COVID-19, Health Equity, outreach, public awareness

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