CHICAGO — There's a new way to search the Internet to find local business on the South Side.
A new website designed by the University of Chicago Medicine allows health care professionals as well as residents to find resources such as churches, laundromats, restaurants and banks, in several South Side neighborhoods.
SouthSideHealth.org's overarching goal is to help health care providers connect patients with the proper community resources, said Tiffani Washington, a University of Chicago Hospitals spokeswoman.
The data is compiled by high school students who work full time during the summer. This year 80 students are participating in the eight-week MAPScorps program, which pays $8.25 per hour.
The program began July 8 and ends Aug. 15, said Dr. Stacy Lindau, director of the South Side Health and Vitality Studies at the University of Chicago Urban Health Initiative. There are more than 10 categories of information for users, and the website provides addresses and phone numbers for each institution listed.
"The idea to start this program began with a conversation in 2008 when a group of doctors [at the university] realized that there was no valid, comprehensive data out there available," she recalled. "Not even the Census could accurately tell you how many restaurants and their locations were in one neighborhood since the Census is conducted once every 10 years."
"Maybe when the Census was conducted a church on the corner was open but now it is a liquor store," Lindau said. "There's no way to know this by simply looking it up on the Internet."
There are 20 neighborhoods now covered by the MAPScorps website. The goal, though, is to eventually cover all 34 neighborhoods on the South Side.
Dr. Daniel Johnson, an associate professor of pediatrics at the university, heads the program, which began in July 2009. Each summer since then the program has continued with groups of students and one university graduate student assigned to different neighborhoods.
Students participating in the program said the experience is informative and eye opening.
"Some preconceived notions you may have had about a particular neighborhood quickly get dispelled or validated," said Devonta Dickey, a 17-year-old Lindblom Math & Science Academy High School senior assigned to the Auburn Gresham community.
Other students also working in Auburn Gresham had only one complaint.
"If we had a car that would help because we do a lot of walking. That's my only complaint," said Saleema Muhammad, 17, who graduated in May from Perspectives High School and lives in South Shore. "Overall, people have been helpful when we ask them questions."
"Most of the students chosen to work on the project came from neighborhood organizations like the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation," said Tiffani Washington, a spokeswoman for the University of Chicago Medicine. "But the program is open to all high school students from across the city."
Part of the funding for the program comes from a $5.9 million grant the university received to use over three years from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, said Lindau, who added that students participating also learn about science, technology, engineering and math.