SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to heighten awareness and educate Illinois women about health issues particular to them, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Conference of Women Legislators (COWL) sponsored a women’s health fair and ceremony today at the Capitol to acknowledge Women’s Health Week. The health fair included a variety of health screenings and informational material on health concerns pertaining to women and the state services and programs available to them.
As part of the day-long women’s health fair in the Capitol Rotunda, representatives from the Governor’s office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, members of the general assembly and COWL celebrated the 10th Anniversary of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). The IBCCP provided nearly 19,000 women with free screenings in FY 04 and a total of 57,000 women since the inception of the program. The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Office of Women’s health contracts with 26 lead agencies that work with 2,100 providers to offer free mammograms, breast exams, pap tests and pelvic exams to low-income women between the ages of 35-64 who have no health insurance. Pamila Schmidt of Logan County is a breast cancer survivor and IBCCP participant who attributes the program to saving her life. Schmidt gave her personal testimony at today’s event. All 26 lead agencies were presented with an award for their efforts during the noon ceremony.
Louanner Peters, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Social Services, spoke at the event to discuss the administration’s commitment to addressing women’s health issues.
“Women’s Health is indeed one of the Governor’s top priorities. He has demonstrated his support for programs and services that address everything from breast and cervical cancer to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis,” said Louanner Peters. “The Governor has also made significant changes in contraceptive coverage. Last year, he signed legislation to require private insurance to cover birth control—and this year, he launched a major awareness campaign to inform women that private insurance plans that cover outpatient drugs or services are now required to cover all FDA approved contraceptive services and prescriptions.”
Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has proven women’s health is a priority by adding an additional $4 million in state funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education. The administration’s support for community and faith-based groups, such as the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC) resulted in 7,500 screenings. SAC works to target the hardest to reach minority women throughout Illinois by partnering with neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers. In FY 05, the total amount of funds supporting breast and cervical cancer programs is $11.45 million including $6.15 million in state dollars. Over the last two years, investments toward breast and cervical cancer screening and education programs in Illinois totals more than $21 million. Gov. Blagojevich also passed legislation in December creating a 12-member Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force to help educate the public about cervical cancer and develop a statewide comprehensive prevention and control plan.
Illinois is one of only 15 states in the country to have an Office of Women’s Health under the Illinois Department of Public Health to address health issues specifically effecting women.
“We are proud to have an office of women’s health,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “We are able to educate women about a variety of diseases that affect them, provide cancer screenings and implement programs throughout the state to improve the health and well being of women in this state.”
Women legislators in the Illinois General Assembly continue to pass ground breaking legislation from insurance coverage of mammograms to cervical cancer awareness and screenings to greater protection from domestic abuse. The Co-Chairs of the Conference of Women Legislators, Rep. Patricia Bellock (R-Hinsdale) and Senate Majority Leader, Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete) spoke at the event, detailing women’s health legislation. Senator Debbie Halvorson is an active advocate for cervical cancer awareness and screenings.
“While this disease is the seventh leading type of cancer in women and the eighth leading cause of cancer deaths in women, the disease is curable when caught early,” said Sen. Debbie Halvorson (D-Crete). “I encourage women to not only undergo annual screenings through a pap test but to also get tested for HPV, a group of viruses that are the leading culprit of cervical cancer.”
For more information on women’s health and programs offered through IDPH visit www.idph.state.il.us or call the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY, (hearing impaired use only) 800-547-0466.