AURORA – Building on her ongoing efforts to promote breast cancer awareness in Illinois, First Lady Patti Blagojevich today joined State Representative Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) at the Greater Mount Olive Church of God in Christ’s “Pink Potluck” event in Aurora. The First Lady highlighted the importance of early detection and urged women to get annual breast cancer screenings and mammograms.
“As a mother, I know that most women spend their time looking after everyone else. We have to realize that one of the best things we can do for our families is to keep ourselves healthy,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “Breast cancer is a devastating disease that can affect any woman, at any time. One of the many things you can do to fight it is protecting yourself, and your loved ones by having regular screenings as it could mean the difference between life and death.”
In October 2005 the First Lady kicked off the Breast Cancer Awareness month by launching the “Pink Potluck Initiative.” Mrs. Blagojevich encouraged First Ladies of African-American churches to host “Pink Potlucks,” social events that promote women’s health awareness. The “Pink Potluck” campaign brings women and their congregations together to discuss the health concerns, experiences and information related to women’s health. The potlucks also encourage women to keep their health in check by talking with their doctors about risk factors and preventative practices. Groups of 100 women or more that participate in a “Pink Potluck,” may request the presence of the state’s “Wellness on Wheels” van to provide health screenings and information to the women attending the event. The Illinois Department of Public Health administers the wellness van, which travels throughout the state to provide a variety of health screenings to underserved areas.
Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer among women 20 years of age and older, with an estimated 9,000 women expected to be diagnosed in Illinois this year. While African-American women are not diagnosed with breast cancer as frequently as Caucasian women, the mortality rate among African American women is 39.3, compared to 25.5 among Caucasian women.
“The mortality rate of breast cancer is almost 15% higher in the African American community, I believe that we can dramatically reduce this rate if we encourage African American women to have yearly screening,” said State Rep. Chapa LaVia. “Our pink potluck is an excellent way to inform women of the importance of mammograms. I applaud First Lady Patti Blagojevich’s efforts to promote these important events across the state.”
The Pink Potluck campaign continues to build upon the First Lady’s breast cancer outreach efforts. In October 2005, Mrs. Blagojevich announced $700,000 in Penny Severns Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancer Research Grants and presented the People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Award on behalf of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich to Dr. Olufunmilayo I. Olopade of the University of Chicago for her dedication to breast cancer research.
Governor Blagojevich has made significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:
· Stand Against Cancer Program: In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC), a community outreach and screening program targeting the hardest to reach minority women. It is conducted by a coalition of neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers. In fiscal year 2005, SAC provided 7,500 screenings and reached more than 13,000 other women through educational programs and outreach.
· Increased funding for women’s health: Since taking office, Gov. Blagojevich has proven women’s health is a priority by increasing funding every year. In fiscal year 2006, he has included $4 million in state funding to support breast and cervical cancer screening and education.
· Investment in screening and education programs: In FY 05, the total amount of funds supporting breast and cervical cancer programs was $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.
· Signed women’s health legislation into law: This summer, Gov. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation effecting women’s health in Illinois. The “Ticket for a Cure” is a new lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research. Senate Bill 12 requires insurance companies to cover screening for breast cancer earlier in a woman’s life if her doctor considers her to be at a higher risk of developing breast cancer. House Bill 3564 expanded the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk.
· Breast and Cervical Cancer Funding: Provided funding to screen additional women for breast and cervical cancer. Nearly 39,000 women in two years, 44 percent of whom are minorities, received free screenings through the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP).
· WISEWOMAN: Piloted the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research project in DuPage County. The project is targeted toward women in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles. It is now expanding to 19 counties.
· Women’s Health Education: Provided funding and support for community-based information and education programs. In fiscal year 2006, Women’s Health Initiative grants totaling $1.6 million in state funding were awarded to 77 local health departments and other non-profit organizations to fund educational programs focusing on cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, menopause and eating disorders.
· Women’s Health-Line: Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY05, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring women to services and providing nearly 600,000 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
· Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program has helped women across the state stay healthy by providing comprehensive reproductive health care coverage, including annual physicals, pap smears, mammograms, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives.
For more information on women’s health and programs 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.You may also call the health-line to inquire about the availability of the wellness vans for Pink Potluck events.