New CEO of Lawndale Christian Health Center tackles health inequities in the neighborhood where he grew up

NORTH LAWNDALE – The Lawndale Christian Health Center has appointed Pastor James Brooks as CEO of the community clinic.

Brooks was previously the chief administrator of the community health center department. Brooks was born and raised in Lawndale and is also senior pastor at Harmony Community Church, where his father previously served as senior pastor.

Her experiences growing up in North Lawndale and coping with challenges on the West Side “give me great perspective” on the health needs of the community, Brooks said.

“This experience has informed how I will lead going forward,” Brooks said.

Since the health center grew out of the Lawndale Christian Community Church in 1984, it has always been driven by a mission to uplift the West Side. Church members initially sought to establish the health center with the goal of improving long-standing health inequalities faced by people living on the West Side by making high-quality care affordable and accessible. to residents.

“It had very humble beginnings,” Brooks said. “We are integrated into the community. This means that our residents have access to us. Our mission is to share the love of Jesus by promoting wellness in Lawndale and our neighboring communities.

What began as a small clinic and basketball court for residents to exercise has grown into one of North Lawndale’s major flagship institutions. Lawndale Christian Health Center is a safety-net hospital that accepts sliding scale payments, and 40% of patients are uninsured. 75,000 people in the area rely on Lawndale Christian Health Center for primary care, Brooks said.

The nonprofit organization operates a state-of-the-art fitness center that residents can join for just $15, as well as multiple event spaces, a seniors’ center, pharmacy, eye clinic, and several satellite clinics in the West Side. The Lawndale Christian Health Center also runs a neighborhood’s only cafe, the Green Tomato Café, “where the community can gather and have a great meal,” Brook said.

Despite major advances in improving access to health care, people in the region still face huge health disparities. According to a 2015 report from Virginia Commonwealth University, residents of parts of the West Side have an average life expectancy 16 years lower than that of inner-city residents. This gap isn’t just due to shortcomings in clinical care, the study showed: it’s also due to social conditions, including disinvestment, segregation and a lack of grocery stores.

One of Brooks’ management priorities is to build community partnerships to improve the social conditions that lead to chronic health problems. Lawndale Christian Health Center is already engaged in such initiatives, such as its medication-assisted treatment programs to support recovery from opioid addiction and its partnerships with more than 20 shelters to serve homeless people, it said. he declares.

“We want to be a better collaborator and partner with organizations that are on the ground, trying to make a difference in the social determinants of health. When we look at violence, when we look at homelessness, transportation, we want to partner with those who have that role and come in as a health care provider,” Brooks said.

Brooks also intends to follow the mantra of Lawndale Christian Community Church founder, coach Wayne Gordon, who often said, “We are better together. The health center has worked with local churches on a campaign called One Lawndale which aims to unite the black community of North Lawndale with the Latino community of Little Village as part of the common social challenges facing each neighborhood.

“Our main campus borders both communities. As an anchor institution, we have a great opportunity to bring people together and break down the walls that divide us,” said Brooks.

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