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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2004

Gov. Blagojevich announces joint initiative for asthma awareness
Plan provides grants to health departments to educate WIC families about asthma

SPRINGFIELD –Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced the “WIC and Asthma Education Initiative,” a partnership between the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Asthma Program and the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (also known as “WIC”) to provide asthma education to WIC clients.
 
“It’s important that everyone, especially parents, understand asthma, what causes it and how to control it,” Gov. Blagojevich said.  “Education and proper medical help can greatly reduce the health effects of asthma and save millions of dollars in medical costs.” 
 
Twenty-nine local WIC agencies will receive mini grants of $3,000 or $4,000 each.  This initiative will provide resources and education on asthma to be given to WIC clients.  In addition, WIC staff will receive training on asthma and how to effectively educate WIC clients. This will help ensure WIC clients with asthma have an action plan by working with the client directly or facilitating linkage of resources.  The grants will also allow agencies to educate WIC clients on other risk factors that affect asthma including smoking, secondhand smoke, obesity and physical inactivity.
 
Teaching parents of children with asthma to avoid environmental triggers, recognize early warning signs of worsening asthma and the severity of an asthma episode, use medications appropriately and seek medical help promptly can dramatically affect the economic and health consequences of asthma. 
 
For example, the evaluation of a pilot program at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago found that this approach reduced hospitalizations by 81 percent, emergency room visits by 64 percent and clinic visits by 58 percent leading to a reduction in annual medical cost of treating these patients by more than $4,000 each. 
 
“Asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease, affecting more than one child in 20, and it’s a leading cause of school absence,” said DHS Secretary Carol L. Adams, Ph.D.  “Since WIC reaches so many families with young children, and especially children who may have a greater chance of developing asthma, it was an obvious choice for this collaboration.” 
 
The prevalence of asthma is rising more rapidly in preschool-aged children than in any other group.  In 1998, the rate of self-reported asthma among children and adolescents under age 18 years old was 7.4 percent, compared to 4.8 percent among people over 17 years of age, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.  This agency also estimates that the annual direct medical costs of asthma in children were $88.9 million in 1998, and that the indirect costs (due to lost wages and other factors) was $55.2 million.
 
 “This is a wonderful collaboration which will ensure that WIC clients with asthma receive educational informational that is vital to their needs,” said Dr. Eric Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. 
 
The WIC Program in Illinois currently provides services to more than 280,000 women and young children each month.  Approximately 40 percent of the children born in Illinois receive WIC services, which are provided through 100 local health departments and community-based agencies statewide.  
 
The agencies to receive grants include:
 
Organization                                                     Amount
           
Bethel New Life Inc.                                                $4,000
Bond County Health Department.                   4,000
Chicago Department of Public Health      4,000
Coordinated Youth and Human Services             4,000
Crawford County Health Department        4,000  
East Side Health District                             4,000
Egyptian Health Department                                4,000
Fayette County Health Department            4,000 
Fulton County Health Department                    4,000
Ford County Health Department                    4,000
Greene County Health Department                    4,000
Jefferson County Health Department                    4,000
Lake County Health Department,                   4,000
Lawrence County Health Department        4,000
Knox County Health Department                    4,000
Macon County Health Department                    4,000
Marion County Health Department                    4,000
Mason County Health Department                    4,000
McDonough County Health Department        4,000
Mercer County Health Department                    3,000
Montgomery County Health Department        4,000
Pike  County Health Department                    4,000 
Scott County Health Department                    3,000
Springfield Department of Public Health      4,000
Tazewell County Health Department                     4,000
Wabash County Health Department                    4,000
Washington County Health Department        3,000
Winnebago County Health Department        4,000
Woodford County Health Department        3,000
 


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