CommunityHealth: 2007 – 2008

Staff nurse at CommunityHealth engages patients in a "Get Fit" class which focuses on health education and fitness.

Located in Chicago’s West Town, CommunityHealth is the largest FREE clinic in Illinois and one of the largest in the United States.

For 15 years the health center has been providing primary and specialty services (now totaling 23) at no cost to the uninsured and underserved in Chicago. The health center is privileged to have a long-standing relationship with the Washington Square Health Foundation. In 2007 – 2008, the foundation generously supported CommunityHealth’s Expanded Case Management Quality Improvement Initiative with a generous grant.

Every year, more and more of CommunityHealth’s resources are directed to diagnosing and treating chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. These illnesses affect almost 50% of the 7,000 patients seen at CommunityHealth annually. This is not surprising as Latinos and African-Americans, groups that are inordinately afflicted with these diseases, represent 75% of the patients seen at the health center. The Expanded Case Management Quality Improvement Initiative is key to the health center’s ability to help patients manage these conditions when they exist and prevent them from occurring in those at risk.

Under the supervision of the director of clinical relations, CommunityHealth’s nursing staff, which consists of a nurse practitioner and two RNs, carries out the initiative which incorporates case management into all nurse patient appointments that include, along with checking vitals and reviewing medications and lab results:

  • Setting health goals and monitoring progress toward those goals; educating patients on healthy behaviors and referring them to appropriate on-site and off-site education classes (see photo featuring CommunityHealth’s “Get Fit!” class); and ensuring that patients are getting appropriate and timely preventive screenings;
  • Reviewing Patient Health Diaries (a booklet given to patients to help them track their medications, blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and hemoglobin A1c levels, diet, etc.) on an ongoing basis;
  • Scheduling patients with the same nurse for every appointment when at all possible to provide continuity of care; and
  • Utilizing a database program that permits nurses to input information obtained from patient visits and measure and monitor what effect expanded case management services have on health outcomes.

CommunityHealth’s emphasis on treating the whole person and supporting medical interventions with an array of on-site education and mental health programs are bringing a message of hope and empowerment to patients at the health center.  As stated by CommunityHealth’s volunteer medical director Babs Waldman, M.D., “the health center’s goal is for our patients and their family members to become aware of chronic diseases they may have and to actively manage their conditions.  The more involved our patients are in their diagnosis, and the more they take charge of their treatment plan, the better they do.”  The Expanded Case Management Quality Improvement Initiative is the core of that agenda empowering patients to take an active role in adopting behaviors that lead to better health and enhanced well being.

More information about CommunityHealth can be found at