CHICAGO – First Lady Patricia Blagojevich today recognized the efforts of two Korean American Community Services leaders, by giving Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s People Are Today’s Heroes (PATH) Awards to Soyoung Kim and Younhee Harm for their tireless dedication to help the people of Chicago’s Korean community and for their creation of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program- a project that provides free mammograms to Korean women in Chicago. The First Lady also highlighted the Governor’s recent expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) and urged all eligible Korean-American and Illinois women to sign up for the free breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment.
“When it comes to breast and cervical cancer, early detection is the key to survival. We are very fortunate to have leaders in Illinois like Younhee and Soyoung who have given women in their community the chance to get screened, when they otherwise, might not have been able to. They have overcome any cultural or language barriers by providing information and tests in Korean, so to make sure that any Korean women can be educated and screened,” said Mrs. Blagojevich. “I am very proud to present Soyoung Kim and Younhee Harm with Governor’s PATH Awards as tokens of recognition for their hard and compassionate work for Chicago’s Korean community. They are truly part of today’s heroes.”
The Governor’s PATH Award recognizes groups or individuals who, through their hard work and commitment, have improved the lives of those in their community and have helped Illinois move forward in the areas of health care, public safety, education and economic development.
Soyoung Kim is the Health Program Supervisor for the Korean American Community Services (KACS) and Younhee Harm is the Director of Public Health and Benefits for the Korean American Community Services. In order to promote the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program in the Korean community, Soyoung and Younhee developed the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program. They created educational presentations, informational flyers and Korean brochures to inform the community about the program and breast and cervical prevention. They arranged for the Cook County Mammogram Van Services to visit KACS once a month to provide free mammograms for 15 Korean women per visit.
Soyoung and Younhee worked with local hospitals and health organizations, including Access to Care, Access Community Health Network, Y-ME, and Cook County Hospital, and Alexian Brother’s Hospital, to ensure that Korean women have access to free and low cost screenings. Every year, they assist more than 500 uninsured or low-income Korean women in accessing free screenings and low cost health care services by providing information and referral, case management, interpretation and translation services.
Every year, KACS provides low cost mammogram and pap-tests to Korean women during the Korean American Community Services health fair event. This upcoming year, 140 Korean women will receive mammograms and 133 Korean women will receive pap tests during the 29th Annual Health Fair.
Soyoung and Younhee have been committed to helping the Korean community. In addition to the creation of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, they helped to develop the Building Better Bones project, which has provided osteoporosis education and screenings to more than 400 Korean women since 2005. In collaboration with Coalition for Limited English Speaking Elderly, they conducted Understanding Menopause workshops and provided bone density screenings for their community. The Building Better Bones project and the Understanding Menopause workshops were made possible through funding provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health Office of Women’s Health. And Soyoung and Younhee were instrumental in informing the Korean community about the Governor’s All Kids program- a plan that provides affordable and comprehensive healthcare coverage to every child in the state, regardless or immigrant status.
At the awards presentation, Mrs. Blagojevich also touched upon the Governor’s recent expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. The First Lady encouraged Korean-American and other Illinois women to sign up for the state program that provides free screenings and treatment for breast and cervical cancer to women without insurance.
Since the Governor took office in 2003, the State has given more than 125,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings through the Illinois Department of Public Health, including more than 82,600 screenings provided for nearly 42,000 women through IBCCP.
Women can find out how to get breast and cervical cancer screening and treatment by logging on to www.cancerscreening.illinois.gov
or by calling the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282
or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. Information on IBCCP and other women health issues and programs can also be found on the IDPH Web site, www.idph.state.il.us
On Mother’s Day, Gov. Blagojevich announced the expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) enabling up to 3,000 more uninsured, low-income women in the state to be eligible for free cancer screenings and treatment. The expanded program began enrolling uninsured women at the beginning of September.
Previously, IBCCP offered mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests to women at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or $40,000 for a family of four. The Governor’s expansion raised the income threshold to 250 percent of the FPL, or $50,000 for a family of four. Additionally, the program now covers treatment for eligible women even when they are diagnosed outside of the IBCCP. Under the previous program, only women diagnosed through IBCCP screening were eligible for treatment through the program.
To be eligible, a woman must be uninsured and between the ages of 40 and 64 for mammograms and breast exams, and between 35 and 64 for pelvic exams and Pap tests. On a case-by-case basis, younger, symptomatic women who meet the financial and insurance guidelines are considered for the program.
The most recent statistics show 8,604 women in Illinois were diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer in 2003. That same year, 2,057 women in Illinois died from breast or cervical cancer. It is estimated that almost 9,000 women will be diagnosed with either breast or cervical cancer this year.
An October 2005 study by the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network Collaborators estimated that breast cancer screening reduced the rate of death from breast cancer by up to 23 percent, and found that treatment is likely to be more effective if cancer is detected at an earlier stage.
Gov. Blagojevich has made other significant contributions to promote and improve women’s health including:
· Increased funding for women’s health: Governor Blagojevich has consistently made women’s health a priority, allocating $24.1 million in state funding for women’s breast and cervical health programs over the last four years. This year, Gov. Blagojevich allocated $2.1 million in new funding to increase eligibility for life-saving breast and cervical cancer screenings to women with incomes up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level.
· Illinois Healthy Women program: The Healthy Women program has helped women across the state who are losing their Medicaid eligibility stay healthy and promoted healthy births by providing comprehensive coverage for reproductive health care, including annual physicals, pap smears, mammograms, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and contraceptives. More than 214,000 women have been offered this program since its inception in 2004.
· Signed women’s health legislation into law: Gov. Blagojevich signed several pieces of legislation affecting women’s health in Illinois. The “Ticket for the Cure” is a new lottery game to raise money for breast cancer research and services. 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. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk.
· Stand Against Cancer initiative: Beginning in 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer (SAC) initiative, 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 2006, SAC provided more than 18,880 breast and cervical cancer screenings and reached more than 157,731 other women outside of IBCCP through educational programs and outreach.
· Women’s Health-Line:
Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources. In FY06, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to more than 2,000 requests, referring women to services and providing more than 223,757 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s Web site: www.idph.state.il.us