Walgreens storefront.

Walgreens addresses health disparities in Chicago’s underserved communities

Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Walgreens is furthering its commitment to address health disparities and improve outcomes in its hometown of Chicago, through a number of community-focused pharmacy and healthcare initiatives, beginning in the city’s underserved neighborhoods on the south side.

This builds on the more than $35 million Walgreens invested this summer to re-open Chicago stores that had been damaged, to best serve the needs of these communities and help ensure continuous pharmacy services at a critical time.

“Improving the health and well-being of the communities we serve guides everything we do, and we know there is great need, as well as opportunity, to assist the patients we serve on their journey to better health,” said John Standley, Walgreens president. “By learning more about the particular health needs in these areas and tailoring our pharmacy services to help address them, we can continue to make an impact as part of our commitment to Chicago, and with pharmacists our customers know and trust.”

Collaborating with city leaders and community organizations, Walgreens is working to expand access to affordable care and educational outreach to further support the city of Chicago’s health equity objectives.

A mobile pharmacy serving a Chicago neighborhood while a damaged location is rebuilt. (Courtesy of Walgreens)

“One of the most crucial steps in breaking down health disparities is making sure that people have a trusted place in their communities to receive the care and treatment they need. For many, those places are their local pharmacies," said Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. “By working closely with community partners like Walgreens, we can help ensure that essential pharmacy services remain available to the communities that rely on them the most, improve and provide education on these services, and get that much closer to closing health gaps for our most vulnerable neighborhoods once and for all."

Walgreens has also started bringing health service offerings to Chatham on the south side of the city. With statistics showing residents in these communities experience a higher prevalence of acute and chronic conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, pneumonia and flu, these initiatives include:

Diabetes outreach: Pharmacists are prioritizing high-touch consultations for those living with diabetes to personalize solutions, address any barriers to taking medications and making recommendations for health screenings and immunizations. Early results from the efforts indicate improved medication adherence for those who are receiving additional consultations and support.

Pediatric asthma outreach and education: Given the high prevalence of pediatric asthma in Chicago, pharmacists are conducting outreach to parents and guardians of children with asthma to provide education on the importance and proper use of asthma medications, review side effects, discuss asthma triggers and provide action plans in collaboration with health care providers, as needed.

Flu clinics: Walgreens has provided flu shots at no cost through initiatives with health insurers, the Illinois Department of Public Health, local community groups and churches in Little Village, Chatham, Gresham, Englewood, Bronzeville, Austin and Roseland.

Health screenings: For more than 12 years, Walgreens has sponsored the First Ladies Health Initiative, working with African American church leaders and pastors’ wives to provide thousands of free health screenings including blood pressure, blood glucose, HIV screenings and immunizations.

Chronic disease: Walgreens partners with the American Heart Association Chicago chapter to support the nonprofit’s efforts to eliminate health disparities and the life expectancy gap between Chicago neighborhoods. The initiative has also helped to train more than 500,000 local residents in CPR.

Affordable access to medications: Walgreens has continued to help ensure patients have affordable access to the medications they need, through the expansion of the Walgreens Prescription Savings Club, which provides savings of up to 80% off for over 8,000 medicines to members.

Walgreens also has extended its offering of free prescription delivery for 1-2 day deliveries through the end of 2020.

These efforts build on the COVID-19 response from Walgreens pharmacy teams that have helped those requiring high-touch care, such as seniors and patients with complex and chronic conditions. Since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year, Walgreens has reached out to thousands of patients to provide individualized support and solutions. And as the company continues to expand COVID-19 testing sites and capacity, Walgreens has prioritized placement of testing sites in underserved areas, which have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

Other initiatives include:

  • Walgreens is making a $35 million financial commitment to rebuild and reopen stores;
  • With those funds, Walgreens is also bringing health services offerings to Chatham, focused on people in these communities who have a higher prevalence of acute and chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma and more; and
  • The company will pilot the Health Equity program, review the data and key learnings, and then determine how to roll it out to other Chicago neighborhoods. Mayor Lori Lightfoot would like to see Walgreens bring the Health Equity program to the west side.

Walgreens health equity services will focus on the following:

  • Working with Black churches to provide thousands of health screenings for blood pressure, blood glucose, HIV and immunizations;
  • High-touch consultations with Walgreens pharmacists for people living with diabetes to improve medication adherence;
  • Flu shots at no costs; and
  • Education to the community on asthma and proper use of asthma medications for children

Walgreens also offered an update on stores:

  • Currently, Walgreens has three sites with temporary pharmacy solutions while it rebuilds; one store is drive-thru only and two others have mobile pharmacies;
  • Six stores remain closed but Walgreens is continuing to work to reopen them as quickly as possible;
  • Walgreens also is staying connected to its patients with centralized call centers and free Rx delivery through the end of the year;
  • In total,  70 experienced damage over the last few months;
  • On June 12, 100 of Walgreens’ 118 Chicago stores were open and operating with regular business hours;
  • On Oct. 6, 112 of 118 Chicago stores are open and operating with regular business hours; and
  • Walgreens is working on opening drive-thru for some of these stores as construction progresses.

Walgreens remains invested in Chicago and committed to ongoing health and well-being efforts, improving access to healthcare, and the city’s overall economic growth and development. Some of the company’s notable commitments in recent years can be found here.