Location of the Community in Relation to the Nation
Melrose Park is in the Northeastern part of Illinois. On the United States map, the community is located in the Northeastern part. The closest county to Melrose Park is Cook County, while neighboring cities are Franklin Park, Northlake, River Forest, River Grove, Maywood, Berkeley, Bellwood, and Stone Park. Melrose’s location on the world map is found at latitude of 41.90N and a longitude of 87.86W. Melrose Park is a unique community in the sense that it does not fit the description of an affluent suburban neighborhood. Furthermore, it is among the few pre-World War II communities in Chicago that traces its origins to the late 1800s when an old company (Melrose Land Company) subdivided huge tracts of land, West of Chicago (Christgau, 1942). The community grew because the company gave small portions of land to investors who could build property worth more than $500 (Marbella & Flanagan, 2009). In 1880, the population of Melrose Park was barely 200 people, but at the turn of the 20th century, it increased to 2,592 people (Harris, 1994). By 1926, the community had cut out a name for itself as an industrial working class suburb (The Electronic Encyclopedia of Chicago, 2005).
Melrose Park is 4.2 sq. miles. The formal boundaries of the community appear below
Assessment of the Community Utilized the Core Elements
Race and Ethnicity
Melrose Park has a population of mixed race inhabitants. The ethnic and racial composition of the region is of Africa-Americans, Caucasians, Asians, Hispanics, Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and American Indians. Hispanics are the largest racial and ethnic group in the community (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). Population estimates for 2013 reveal that this racial group comprises 73.9% of the total population in Melrose Park. White people comprise 20.3% of the population; African-Americans comprise 4.9% of the population; Asians comprise 1.4%; and mixed race people comprise 0.6% of the inhabitants (AVI, 2016). The least racial and ethnic groups are Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders who comprise 0.05% and 0.04% of the population, respectively (CDC, 2016). The pie chart below provides a graphical summary of the racial and ethnic composition of residents of Melrose Park.
Traditionally, Melrose Park has been home to an Italian-American population. Therefore, the region’s culture is mostly representative of this cultural group. According to 2014 statistics, there were 9,997 foreign-born residents of Melrose Park. This is a relatively high percentage of foreign-born people in the community, considering there are only 14% of foreign-born residents in Illinois (CDC, 2016). The cultural makeup of the community explains its religious composition below.
According to Cook County Statistics, Melrose Park has a high population of people who do not profess any religion and who profess the Catholic faith (CDC, 2016). A significant number of people are also evangelical Protestants. People who profess other faiths follow this number of people. The least followed faiths are mainland Protestants (3.9%), Protestants (2.9%), and Orthodox Christians (1%) (AVI, 2016). The graph below shows a historical analysis of the number of people who profess these faiths from the year 2000 to 2010.
The high number of people who do not profess any faith and the equally high number of Christians in the community could indicate that most people support western medicine.
Most inhabitants of Melrose Park resonate with leftwing politics. In other words, most of their political beliefs are progressive, particularly because they look to the future. These beliefs explain why most inhabitants of Melrose Park consider themselves Democrats. The principles of equal distribution of wealth, taxation of the rich to help the poor, and having a universal health care system are some political philosophies that represent their beliefs (Marbella & Flanagan, 2009). People who have different political opinions are few. If we use the 2012 presidential results to quantify this number of people, we find that the dissidents could only be about 25% of the population. To affirm this view, a comprehensive review of the community’s presidential results reveals that most of the people chose to vote for President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 general elections. The diagram below represents this view.
A historical analysis of the political environment of the region also reveals the same pattern because since 1996, most people have voted the democratic way. The graph below represents this finding.
The inclination towards leftwing politics could indicate that most residents would support health programs and policies introduced by democrats (such as the Obama Care).
Housing and Zoning
There are 8,726 housing units in Melrose Park. The number of owner-occupied housing units is 3,826; while the number of renter occupied housing units is 4,132 (HTL, 2016). There are also 738 vacant housing units out of the 8,726 available units in the community (HTL, 2016). There are different types of housing structures in Melrose Park. Their popularity mostly depends on the income brackets of the population. The estimated median house value for 2013 was $170,608. In 2000, the same index was $155,200 (Marbella & Flanagan, 2009). Compared to the state of Illinois, this value is higher because the average house value in Illinois is $169,600. The surplus number of houses in the community could mean that there are a few homeless people. This outcome would also mean that fewer people are exposed to adverse environmental effects that could negatively affect their health.
The main shopping center at Melrose Park is the Winston Plaza Shopping Center. The main parks in the community include Eisenhower Park, Bulger Park, and Bataan Park (DeVivo & Lawrence County Historical Society, 2010). Fun lovers in Melrose Park prefer to spend time at Maywood Park Racetrack and the Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Stern Pinball, Inc. is also another popular destination for fun lovers, especially those who like to play ping-pong. We saw a few sidewalks in the community and relatively low numbers of people cycling or walking, compared to the number of people driving. This observation could indicate the embracing of a sedentary lifestyle in the community, which could be a possible cause of its health problems.
According to 2014 statistics, Melrose Park has a population of 25,511 people (CDC, 2016). Compared to population statistics reported in 2000, the 2014 numbers represented a change of 10.1% (AVI, 2016). There are more males than females in the community. According to Fidencio and Flanagan (2009), the percentage of the male population is 50.5%, while the percentage of the female population is 49.5%. Cumulatively, the median resident age of this population is 31.2 years. Comparatively, the median resident age for residents of Illinois is 37.2 years (CDC, 2016). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2015), the estimated median household income is $44,724. This is an increase of the median household income because in the year 2000, the same index was $40,689 (Marbella & Flanagan, 2009). A comparative analysis of the same index between Melrose Park and Illinois reveals that the community has a relatively low median household income compared to Illinois because the same index in Illinois is $56,210. The estimated per capita income for the Melrose Park community is $17,251 (according to 2013 statistics) (CDC, 2016). In March 2016, the cost of living in Melrose Park rose to 103.8, while the US average is 100 (AVI, 2016). The graph below provides a household income distribution for residents of Melrose Park
Comprehensively, the income distribution in Melrose Park shows that most people can pay for health care services through insurance, or otherwise.
A demographic analysis of people who are above 15 years reveals there are more married people than unmarried ones. A deeper analysis of this finding reveals that the population of married people is 45.2%, while that of people who have never married is 36.9% (CDC, 2016). The percentage of separated, widowed, and divorced people is 4.3%, 4.2%, and 9.5% respectively. The size of households in Melrose Park is relatively higher compared to the size of households in Illinois. A deeper analysis of this fact reveals that the average size of households in Melrose Park is 3.2, while the average size of households in Illinois is 2.6 people (CDC, 2016). The percentage of family households in Melrose Park (71.6%) is also relatively larger than the percentage of family households in the whole state (65.8%) (CDC, 2016).
Signs of Community Decay
The percentage of people living in poverty in Melrose Park is 19% of the population. Most people living in this condition are African-Americans (42.3%), followed by Hispanics and Latinos at 19.9% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). The percentage of white non-Hispanic residents living in poverty is 8.5%, while those who have mixed race is 20.0%. Besides these statistics, there were no other visible signs of decay in the neighborhood. However, the number of people living in poverty could mean the lack of access to health care services.
Media Availability and Influence
Melrose Park has a vibrant media network characterized by multiple radio and television channels. Collectively, the media has a strong influence in shaping people’s opinions and perspectives regarding different aspects of their social, political, or economic lives. However, more importantly, the media helps to inform the people about health matters in the state, or within the community. However, we noticed there were no visible billboards for health messages. This could be an area of further improvement, especially if health agencies need to communicate health messages to the population.
Health and Morbidity
There are a few major health centers in Melrose Park. They Include Loyola Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, Westlake Community Hospital, Villa Scalabrini, Fmc – Neomedica – Melrose Park, Fmcna – North Avenue Dialysis Center, Gottlieb Home Health Services, Hands And Heart Home Health, Inc., and Spring Meadows Home Health Care, LLC (MPI, 2016). The major health issues affecting residents of the community are diabetes, and obesity. The adult diabetes rate is 8.4%, while the adult obesity rate is 23.5% (AVI, 2016). The rate of diabetes within the community is almost the same as the rate of diabetes in the state (the rate of diabetes in Illinois is 8.3% compared to the rate of diabetes in Melrose Park – 8.3%). If we examine the rate of adult obesity between Melrose Park and the wider Illinois State, we find that the latter has a relatively higher obesity rate (25.2%) compared to Melrose Park (23.5%) (AVI, 2016). A general assessment of the health and nutrition levels for residents of Melrose Park shows that the majority of the people are healthy (54%) (MPI, 2016). Comparatively, Illinois has a general health index of 55.4%. The number of fatalities that occur in Melrose Park is relatively higher than the number of fatal incidents that occur in the state, or even in the US at large. The graph below shows a historical data analysis of the number of fatalities in the community
The high number of fatalities in the community could mean a significantly higher demand for emergency health services in the community.
Stores, Services, and Service Centers
The number of grocery stores in Melrose Park is 1,460 (AVI, 2016). This finding translates to 2.77/10,000 pop, compared to the statewide statistics of 2.24/10,000 pop. There are also 23 supercenters and club stores in the community (CDC, 2016). The state statistics for the same index is 0.08/10,000 pop. About 490 convenience stores have no gas. Comparatively, 806 convenience stores have gas. There are 3,516 full service restaurants in the region, which translates to 6.67 / 10,000 pop. The state statistics for the same index is 6.86 / 10,000 pop. We observed that there were relatively high numbers of fast-food restaurants compared to fresh-food stores. This could pose a health problem for the residents because of the lack of proper nutrition.
Some of the most common eateries at Melrose Park include Portillos Hot Dogs Inc. (hot dog joint), Las Gorditas de Don Angel (Mexican restaurant), Carnitas Don Alfredo (Mexican restaurant), and Abruzzo’s Italian Restaurant & Lounge Inc. (Italian restaurant). The picture below shows how Portillos Hot Dogs Inc. looks like.
Most of the people living in Melrose Park use utility gas for cooking (91%), followed by electricity (7%), and bottled, tanked, or LP gas (2%) (CDC, 2016). Only 1% of the population uses other types of fuel. The diagram below provides a comprehensive graphical representation of this finding.
Schools and Educational Attainment
There are two main institutions of higher learning in Melrose Park – Lincoln College of Technology-Melrose Park and Everest College-Melrose Park. Both of these colleges are private and for-profit organizations. Although they offer full-time enrollment, their student numbers are low. Comparatively, the colleges that have more than 2000 students are Triton College, Dominican University, Concordia University-Chicago, Elmhurst College, City Colleges of Chicago-Wilbur, Wright College, Morton College, and Northeastern Illinois University. These schools have student enrollment numbers of 8,817, 2,971, 3,944, 3,364, 8,683, 3,236, and 8,004 respectively (CDC, 2016). The main private high school in Melrose Park is Walther Lutheran High School. It has a student population of 445 and is located at 900 Chicago Ave. The main public elementary/Middle Schools in Melrose Park are Melrose Park Elem School, Mannheim Middle School, Stevenson Elem School, Scott Elementary School, Grant Elem School, and Jane Addams Elem School. Comparatively, the main private/elementary middle schools are Sacred Heart School, St Paul Lutheran School, Grace Montessori School, and the Word of God Christian Academy.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2015), 67.6% of the population in Melrose Park has a high school Diploma. Comparatively, only 10.0% of the population have a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. People who have a graduate or professional degree are 2.3% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). The rate of unemployment is 6%. Melrose Park also has one public library (Melrose Park Public Library) that serves most of the residents of the community. This library has an operating income of $875,284, but is able to fulfill its mandate of providing educational services to most residents of the region. The educational characteristics of the community could indicate that most people would easily understand health information.
Transportation Modes and Access
Most people in Melrose Park choose to drive, as opposed to taking public modes of transport. This is true for most people who commute to work. Some people also choose to carpool to work. Their number is higher than the number of people who choose to take public transport or walk to work. The diagram below shows a snapshot of the main modes of transport used by residents of the community when going to work
The Metra railroad station is the most popular transport hub for people who frequently travel to Chicago. Amtrak stations form part of the main transport hubs in Melrose Park. They are located in different locations around the community, including La Grange Road (La Grange, 25 W. Burlington Ave.), Summit (Archer & Center Ave.), and Chicago (225 S. Canal St.) (DeVivo & Lawrence County Historical Society, 2010). These stations often have taxi stands, payphones, short-term and long-term parking, and public transit connections (Fidencio & Flanagan, 2009). These amenities mean that community residents make few physical movements. This way, they increase their likelihood of developing obesity, heart attack, and other “lifestyle diseases.”
Broadly, throughout my investigations and health research, I have established that diabetes and obesity are the main health problems affecting residents of Melrose Park. The reliance on cars (as the main mode of transport) and the high number of fast food restaurants has worsened this situation. Community stakeholders need to do more work to address this problem by increasing walkways, and increasing the number of stores that sell healthy foods. There is also a need to sensitize the community through radio, television, and billboards about the benefits of eating healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle.
AVI. (2016). Melrose Park, IL demographics. Web.
CDC. (2016). Melrose Park, Illinois. Web.
Christgau, E. (1942). Unincorporated communities in Cook County. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago.
DeVivo, A., & Lawrence County Historical Society. (2010). Cascade Park. New York, NY: Arcadia Publishing.
Fidencio, M., & Flanagan, M. (2009). Melrose Park, Illinois (Images of America series). New York, NY: Arcadia Publishing.
Harris, R. (1994). Chicago’s other suburbs. Geographical Review, 84(4), 394–410.
HTL. (2016). Melrose Park, Illinois – basic facts. Web.
Marbella, F., & Flanagan, M. (2009). Melrose Park. New York, NY: Arcadia Publishing.
MPI. (2016). Popular attractions in Melrose Park. Web.
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