Champaign council hopeful focused on health of community

Champaign council hopeful focused on health of community

CHAMPAIGN — A Carle physician wants to help put Champaign on a different path.

Since he finished his pediatric training three years ago, Dr. Jon Paul Youakim has been searching for more ways "to make the biggest difference with the time that I have," and break what he calls the "cycle of poverty."

It's a personal goal of his to serve not only as a doctor, but as a leader of the community.

Youakim hopes to bring a community-health perspective to the city council, a message he has repeated to anyone he's run into on the campaign trail, and create evidence-based programming to combat the increased gun violence, inequality and housing issues the city of Champaign is facing.

"Part of being on the council for me would be to help coordinate efforts in town and make sure the city is stepping up and providing evidence-based ways to break the cycle of poverty," Youakim said. "But that's going to take a whole community effort as well."

During the run-up to April 2, Youakim has frequently cited a landmark 1990s study by the CDC and Kaiser Permanente, which observed the correlation between adverse childhood experiences and well-being later in life. Experiences such as abuse, neglect, mental illness or other household stressors, the study found, lead to increased impulsivity later in life and are tied to increased risk of heart disease, lung disease, depression and drug abuse, among other things.

It's research like it that shows that some of the important issues facing the city — like gun violence — can only be fixed by focusing on the root problems, not symptoms of the problem, Youakim said.

"With gun violence, you have young individuals getting into a disagreement, there's a gun around and impulsive actions follow that have wide consequences," Youakim said. "It's an over-simplication, but it's what we're seeing.

"The city has tried to combat against it with programs like CU Fresh Start. And I applaud them for at least acknowledging there's a problem, but it needs a more comprehensive approach."

When it comes to decreasing gun violence, Youakim said the city council should think long term — focusing on reducing crimes "not in the next year, but 10 to 20 years from now."

"We need to start with the kids who aren't even born yet, so they don't become perpetrators of violence in the future," Youakim said. "To do that, you have to lift up both the parents and the child."

Three years ago, Youakim said he helped launch Carle's Healthy Beginnings program, which provides nurse home visiting care and support for pregnant moms and their families, as well as healthy food access, mobile clinic services, employment opportunities and child and family education. It's exactly the kind of program that needs support from the city, he said.

"Being on the city council, it would be my role to help the city understand what are the areas in the cycle of poverty that the city should be addressing," Youakim said, pointing to recidivism as a target area.

"You can't imprison your way out of crime and gun violence. It doesn't actually improve the health of the community."

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Tags (1):Election 2019