FILE - Illinois State Capitol

The Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois.

(The Center Square) – The Illinois' Department of Healthcare and Family Services has proposed a new equity-centric plan to transform how healthcare works in the state.

Building off research and listening sessions conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago's School of Public Health and the Institute for Healthcare Delivery Design, HSF designed a plan that recognizes social and structural determinants of health as well as medical ones and proposes ways to address them, according to a state news release.

Cyrus Winnett, senior vice president of Public Policy and Government Affairs at the Illinois Primary Health Care Association, said the plan intends a more holistic approach to healthcare.

One of the most significant differences one would see with the new plan is a greater emphasis on connecting people seeking medical help with other social service supports, Winnett said.

"So for instance, if someone needs housing, simply do a better job of having providers recognize that need and then connecting the individual to the housing services that they need, or the employment services they need, or the education services they need," Winnett said.

Winnett said that by focusing on keeping people healthy rather than addressing their needs after a problem, the plan aims to steward the state's finite resources better.

"What needs to be done is to ensure we are making the best possible use of those resources, and that is done by providing people with primary preventative care that addresses their medical, behavioral, dental, and other social determinants of health such as employment, housing, education, etc. that keeps them healthy," Winnet said.

The COVID-19 pandemic served to highlight underserved areas and healthcare disparities within the state, especially in Black and Brown communities. What the equity-centric healthcare plan proposes is a shift in resources to underserved communities, said Winnett.

"If we can keep people healthy and we can keep them out of the emergency room, we will then be making the best possible use of the resources we have available, and also the people themselves will have better lives and wellbeing," Winnett said. "They will be better off because of a system that addresses all of their needs and not just responds to some of them."