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CHER Chicago

The Center for Health Equity Research Chicago – CHER Chicago – is a National Institutes of Health-funded Center of Excellence, based out of the University of Illinois Cancer Center and the UIC School of Public Health and in collaboration with the University of Chicago Medicine, dedicated to researching how various social structures and determinants contribute to the health of marginalized groups.

A growing body of scientific evidence strongly suggests that social determinants – such as poverty, living in a food desert, lacking safe spaces to play and exercise, discrimination, or growing up with neighborhood violence – can contribute to the development of preventable diseases and conditions, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and substance abuse. CHER Chicago acknowledges that structural violence and its effects on people and communities can only be eliminated through engaging community partners in meaningful ways to transform academic research to real world.

CHER Health Equity Research Framework
Conceptual framework of structural violence and health inequality

CHER initially will focus on three research projects that address health and "structural violence" – a term that describes the multiple characteristics of social, economic and political systems that expose vulnerable communities to physical, socioeconomic, behavioral, or psychosocial risks leading to increased morbidity and mortality. Structural violence creates health inequalities through a process rooted in systems of racism, social class, and heteronormativity. These systems shape the health of populations via neighborhood contexts and individual actions. That is, the health inequalities we observe are the immediate product of where and how people live – and that is defined by the forces of racism, social class, and heteronormativity.

Mission & Values

The mission of CHER Chicago is to make transformative contributions toward the elimination of structural violence through collaborative community partnerships, innovative research, and development and growth of researchers.

CHER Chicago is rooted in six values:

Science: CHER Chicago strives to advance health equity research by developing and refining theoretical frameworks of structural violence and health equity; and by promoting multilevel, multidisciplinary research on the social, economic, psychosocial, behavioral, and biophysical processes linking structural violence and health equity.

Development and Growth: CHER Chicago strengthens health equity scholars and research activities that can expand our understanding of structural inequalities that expose racial, ethnic, and sexual and gender minority groups to differential risks and vulnerabilities.

Community: CHER Chicago acknowledges structural violence and its effects on people and communities can only be eliminated through engaging community partners in meaningful ways to transform academic research to real-world social change.

Collaboration: The Three Core organization of CHER Chicago reflects authentic partnership principals that value equitable and meaningful engagement of all participants:

  • The Administrative Core (AC is responsible for facilitating authentic partnership of all Cores in all stages of CHER activities. 
  • Investigator Development Core (ID) identifies and cultivates equity research.
  • Community Engagement Core (CE) supports community projects and dissemination of research findings.

Diversity and Inclusion: CHER Chicago aims to eliminate the effects of structural violence on health inequalities among racial, ethnic, and sexual and gender minorities.

Policy Impact: CHER Chicago seeks to influence and partner with elected officials and government entities to advance legislation and protect programs that work in concert with our mission.

CHER Chicago is supported by a National Institutes of Health grant, 1U54MD012523-01.