SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today unveiled a $355 million budget for the Illinois Department of Public Health that calls for creation of new statewide initiatives to eliminate health disparities and to promote physical fitness, and recommends increased spending for HIV/AIDS and breast and cervical cancer programs.
The Governor’s plan for fiscal year 2005, which starts July 1, would boost the Department’s overall spending by $5.3 million, a 1.5% increase.
“This budget reflects new ideas to meet the Governor’s vision of improving the health of Illinois citizens through a greater emphasis on physical fitness and addressing health disparities among minorities, women and people in rural areas of the state,” said State Public Health Director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker.
Blagojevich’s budget plan proposes $3 million for Health Vision for Illinois, a coordinated effort among state agencies and other partners to improve health and eliminate health disparities through a focus on prevention, promotion, protection and providing more effective health care. The vision recommends increased partnerships with community health centers; increased concentration on physical fitness, oral health and health screenings; better outreach on health disparity issues; improved health data collection; and development of provider report cards to inform the public on the quality of care provided by hospitals.
The Department’s budget also includes $500,000 for a statewide, community-based physical fitness campaign that would encourage Illinois residents to engage in regular physical activity. Major components of the effort include raising awareness of the benefits of leading a physically active lifestyle, the amount and type of exercise recommended to achieve these benefits, organizing special events and physical activity programs to increase physical activity, and working with schools to improve physical education and school nutrition.
“Health is our most precious commodity,” Dr. Whitaker said. “Even though we are faced with tough economic times, budget cuts and downsizing, we cannot short change our efforts to improve the health of Illinois citizens.”
Among the other spending increases proposed by Governor Blagojevich is more money for breast and cervical cancer screenings and educational outreach. As the Governor pledged last year, state support for the program will jump by $2 million to $6 million. Using a combination of faith-based and community-based organizations and health centers, clinics, hospitals and local health departments, the Department will combine federal funds and state dollars to reach more than 30,000 women in hard-to-reach communities to stress the importance of early detection, screening and treatment for breast and cervical cancer.
“Unfortunately, not all women in the state – generally those who are disproportionately poor and disproportionately a minority – always have access to the care they need to maintain their health,” Dr. Whitaker said. “That has to change and the additional funding recommended by the Governor will help. This administration is committed to making sure every woman, no matter where she lives or how much she makes, has access to breast and cervical screenings and treatment.”
The Governor’s budget also fulfills a pledge by boosting funding to address the growing concern of HIV/AIDS among minorities from $1 million to $3 million. Blagojevich noted that while African Americans represent just 15.1 percent of the state’s population they account for more than half of the 4,900 AIDS cases reported over the last three years. The funds will be used to
enhance prevention efforts in communities of color.
In addition to more money for minority HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the Governor added $3.1 million to support the increasing cost, additional drugs and number of clients enrolled in the Department’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). The state currently spends $30 million on ADAP to provide 72 life-saving medications to an average of nearly 3,000 HIV-infected clients a month who have a gross income at or below 400 percent of poverty ($37,240 for a family of one). As part of Blagojevich’s plan, $1.6 million of the ADAP increase will be used for the first time to add medicines to treat the adverse side effects of AIDS drugs.
Other budget highlights include $57 million for bioterrorism and emergency preparedness efforts at the state and local level and $14 million to help fund the operations of the 94 certified local health departments in the state.