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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 23, 2003

Governor announces start of new health effort to improve women’s cardiovascular health
First demonstration project in DuPage County; three other downstate sites to begin recruiting low-income women in 2004

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced recruitment is underway in DuPage County for women between the ages of 40 and 64 to participate in a national pilot program designed to improve their cardiovascular health that the state eventually hopes to expand statewide.
 
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in Illinois, claiming more lives than cancer, unintentional injuries, lung disease, pneumonia, influenza and diabetes combined,” Blagojevich said.  “This special effort will allow us to determine whether health screenings, education and lifestyle intervention efforts can help lower heart disease and other chronic disease risk factors among low-income women who often don’t have access to comprehensive health care.”
 
DuPage County is the first of four demonstration sites to be funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health from a $1 million U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant.  Recruitment and health screenings of low-income women enrolled in the state and federally-funded Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) began earlier this month and 12-week intervention sessions will start in February.  The other demonstration sites – Fulton and Stephenson county health departments and the Little Egypt Breast and Cervical Cancer Program located at St. Mary’s Good Samaritan Hospital in Centralia – plan to begin recruiting and screening women in June 2004 and intervention session are to start in July.
 
The study, known as WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation) Program, is expected to include 2,500 women in Illinois from 20 counties by 2005 and eventually be offered statewide.  It is designed to measure the effectiveness of education on the health of lower income women.
 
The Illinois WISEWOMAN Program will serve:
 
·                     women between the ages of 40 and 64,
·                     women who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level,
·                     women who are uninsured, and
·                     women who are currently enrolled in IBCCP, which offers free mammograms, breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests and medical referrals to low-income women who have no health insurance.
 
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said all Illinois WISEWOMAN participants are to receive screening tests, which consist of total lipid profile, blood glucose, blood pressure, dietary intake, physical activity level, height, weight, waist circumference and resting pulse, that will be taken again at three months, 12 months and two years.
 
After the first screening, participants will be randomly placed in an intervention or control group.  Both groups will receive educational pamphlets related to cardiovascular disease, nutrition and physical activity.  The intervention group also will attend a 12-week series of classes on the importance of nutrition and physical activity.
 
The program will be offered in English and in Spanish and will include women who are unable to read.  The state successfully petitioned to reverse an earlier decision that the program would only serve women who could read, which would have excluded a significant portion of the program’s targeted population.
           
The Illinois Department of Public Health received an enhanced grant, which means the project also has to conduct intervention research by testing the effectiveness of intervention sessions designed to help women eat healthier, exercise more and lower their blood pressure or cholesterol levels.
 
The WISEWOMAN Program was established by the CDC in three states in 1995 and has since grown to 14 states.  Funding for the Illinois WISEWOMAN Program is expected to continue through 2008.


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