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Health Empowerment Zone (HEZ)

The map above is a participatory mapping project to identify the accessibility of health related community assets and services in Chicago as well as mapping out barriers to accessibility that people find in their local communities. The purpose of this interactive map is to:

  1. Collect local accessibility information about health promotion related resources in Chicago.
  2. Help people find these health promotion sites and services such as fitness centers, health food stores etc. in their neighborhoods
  3. Help people plan out how to get to these locations and how to avoid environmental barriers such as bad curb cuts, broken sidewalks, inaccessible entries.
  4. Analyze the geography of health related accessibility in Chicago to better understand areas of high accessibility and which areas are in need of accessible locations.


Here are some instructions to help you use this interactive map and add to the collective knowledge about accessibility in Chicago.

  • Information: Click on marker icon to get more information about that location
  • Add Markers: in the upper right corner there is an ADD button. Press this and you will get options for adding markers.
  • You can add a barrier or an accessible facility by entering the address or by pressing the link “map select a location”
  • Click on the location that you want to input. You can use the satellite tab in the upper right corner to help you find specific locations, such as on a sidewalk
  • Next to the word marker at the bottom of the pop-up, there is a pull down menu in which you can choose which type of marker you’d like to input.
  • You can add more details about a site, such as a description, pictures, audio or video.
  • Click Submit to finish.
  • Layers: You can turn layers off and on at the bottom of the map
  • Search: Find specific locations on the map
  • Errors/Additions: if you find information that is incorrect or if you’d like to add information to an existing point, please email and he will make the changes.

This longitudinal study funded by the National Institutes of Health uses a community-based participatory research (CBPR) model to improve access to the built environment for persons with mobility disabilities. The Health Empowerment Zone (HEZ) is a 3 X 3 mile area surrounding the University of Illinois at Chicago. The study is being conducted in two phases.

Phase I (completed) involved the assessment of the physical environment within the Health Empowerment Zone.  Environmental assessments were conducted to determine the accessibility of sidewalks, transportation, grocery stores, fitness facilities and parks.  The Health Empowerment Zone Environmental Assessment Tool (HEZEAT) was developed and validated for use on outdoor paths.  Longitudinal data was collected for physical activity levels, nutritional intake, secondary health conditions and access to the community.

Phase II (ongoing) will evaluate the effectiveness of empowerment training in aiding individuals to make their environments more accessible and lead healthier lifestyles. The intervention group will receive training on ADA rights, healthy eating and using accessibility assessment tools. The intervention group will assess 4 key health areas: fitness facilities, grocery stores, transit, and their neighborhood to determine their level of accessibility.  After using these 4 key health areas for six weeks, the intervention group will re-assess the facilities to evaluate accessibility. Health behavior data will be recorded both pre and post intervention to determine the effectiveness of the empowerment training.  GPS devices will be used to objectively record the travel paths of participants in order to better understand the environmental barriers that people with mobility limitations experience and whether travel paths changed as a result of the intervention.