CHICAGO’S YOUTH CITIZEN SCIENTISTS: Launching a new model of teen community healthcare workers

With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, IGPA and its collaborators are designing and testing programs to better meet the health and wellness needs of youth from systemically marginalized Chicago communities of color.


Discrimination in healthcare systems is a national crisis, and underprivileged communities—especially people of color—bear the worst impacts of these biases, negative individual experiences, and social stigmas. As a result, higher rates of disease and comorbidity are common in such communities, with long-term negative results expanding to include higher rates of multi-generational poverty, unemployment, educational challenges, residential segregation, criminalization, hazardous housing, incarceration, and health disparities as well. It’s no wonder many people tend to mistrust mainstream healthcare systems.

In partnership with 50 organizations in Chicago, including the Illinois Legislative Black and Latino Caucuses and with funding by the MacArthur Foundation, IGPA co-created a pioneering new Youth Community Health Workers (YCHW) training and certificate program. Social, behavioral, and life science researchers will teach 50 high school students and young adults to explore real-world policy implications around health and wellness, considering the structures at work and gathering insights to inform and improve new solutions. Youth Health Care Workers will graduate with a workforce certification from the Illinois Association of Community Health Workers Program and the skills to help design future interventions that are human-centered, community-based, and interdisciplinary.

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