By Susan Fong
The Chinese American Service League (CASL) has completed its second Social Determinants of Health Assessment (SDoH). It completed its first in Spring 2020. The results of both assessments are aiding the agency in developing more holistic programming for the constituency it serves.
CASL serves more than 5,000 people through its 26 programs, with a staff of nearly 500.
COO Jered Pruitt said, “Three and half years ago we realized that moving forward we wanted to transform the organization into a data- informed practice organization. Although 99% of assumptions drawn from working with clients were accurate, we wanted to back those with data.”
With the formation of CASL’s new Center for Social Impact to help in data collection and developing the assessment studies, the organization has been able to attract new sources of revenue for the additional programming resulting from the reports.
Pruitt said that unlike previous generations’ philanthropists who were brand-driven, younger philanthropists are results-driven.
CASL conducted the 40- question survey over a two month period, with a total of 549 assessments collected.
Most of the respondents lived in Armour Square/Chinatown, Bridgeport, Brighton Park, and McKinley Park. Of those answering, 97% were Asian, and 66% were female.
Major points from four major categories are as follows.
Place and Safety: Since the 2020 study, fewer participants reported feeling safe, speaking English well, and there was a decrease in community belonging amongst female respondents.
Housing and Financial: More respondents were unemployed or out of work, participants who owned pay more than renters, and adults aged 45-to-64 reported not having enough food.
Health Visits and Costs: Those without healthcare insurance reported higher levels of self-perceived health problems, and people who spoke English “very well” reported “usually” or “always” being able to receive needed health care. Respondents generally did not feel like they needed to get their teeth cleaned because they thought their teeth were fine.
Health and Fitness: Uninsured participants are more likely to use alternative medicine and male participants smoke more than female participants.
Director Pingjing Zou, director of CASL’s Center for Social Impact said, “It’s very exciting going into unchartered territory. We’re learning as we’re going. As with everything, things take time and we are building a strong foundation, building upon this model and continuing with the annual assessments.”
In December, CASL launched its Behavioral Health and Clinical Services program. With rising rates of mental health issues afflicting the community, CASL’s new service offerings will expand its comprehensive care platform while also complementing the efforts of other mental health programs to improve the overall health and well-being of the community.
One reason for new mental health programs is that “Mental health issues are not a regular topic of discussion among our community,” said Winnie Lam, LCSW, associate director, CASL Behavioral Health and Clinical Services.
Pruitt said, “It’s our hope that these new services will help improve the mental health and well-being of our community.”
The reports have been an invaluable resource to identify issues within the community to inform decisions on for new service offerings, CASL administrators said.
Program Director Jamie Ewing said, “The areas most impacted by the studies were the Senior Meals Program, Housing and Employment, Legal Services, and Behavioral Health. The agency has added seven more programs in the past two years, from 19 to 26.”
CASL successfully addressed the issue of senior hunger by bolstering and expanding its senior meals and culinary program. Its kitchens prepare and deliver 350 meals a day. Additionally, CASL increased the hours of its part-time legal aid clinic, formerly open one day per week, 40 hours per week to offer a broader range of services.
The Washington, DC-based Asian American Foundation has selected CASL in Chicago, along with organizations in New York City and Oakland, CA, to step up efforts to address anti-Asian sentiment and crimes. CASL will participate in data collection concerning crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, provide victim support, and serve as an intermediary between victims, government, and the media.
“This is an example of how we are addressing and tackling the the safety issue reported in the study,” said Ewing.
As the needs of the community reveal themselves more clearly through analysis of the SDoH assessments, CASL will continue to evolve its programming to meet the needs of the Chinatown community for the future.
“Our community looks to us for solutions,” said Paul Luu, CASL CEO. “We’re stepping up to provide new services to improve the overall health and well-being of our community.”
For CASL, log on to caslservic.org or call (312) 791-0418. For the report, go to www.caslservice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/2021-SDoH-Report.pdf.