By Chris Adams

The city of Chicago has a rich history and dozens of distinctive, vibrant neighborhoods. It also has a dizzying array of health problems that city officials are trying to tackle with a comprehensive plan, called Healthy Chicago 2.0.

Julie Morita, the city’s commissioner of public health, laid out the problems and the plans for National Press Foundation fellows.

“We’re in year one, but we’re moving and have some good things to talk about,” said Morita, who has led the Chicago Department of Public Health since 2015.

The city’s plan is focused on the root causes of poor health, and the effort started by collecting a vast amount of data to actually show what’s happening at the neighborhood and street level.

Overall, they found, 48 percent of children in Chicago are living in “low child opportunity areas,” which takes into account the availability of healthy food, prevalence of vacant housing, and the proximity to toxic waste  sites, parks and health facilities. They found that 19 percent of Chicago public school children are obese.

They also found that life expectancy of people living in areas of “high economic hardship” was several years lower than those who live elsewhere. In some neighborhoods, life expectancy is less than 73 years; in others, it’s more than 80.

The overall plan has 30 goals, 82 objectives and more than 200 strategies. The goal is to increase life expectancy, and to do that it seeks to do several other things, such as reducing obesity and reducing preventable hospitalizations.

One goal, for example, is to reduce the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases. City officials know that only 18 percent of high school students eat fruit and vegetables at recommended levels – a pattern that carries into adulthood. They also know that 23 percent of teenagers in Chicago drink soda every day.

The plans calls for efforts to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among children by 10 percent, in part by boosting access to produce in schools. It also wants to decrease soda consumption among children by 5 percent, in part by reducing the price differences between healthy and unhealthy beverages.