SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a new study shows Illinois has seen the greatest improvement in health over the previous year than any state in the country. The 17th annual edition of America’s Health Rankings: A Call to Action for People & Their Communities shows Illinois with the highest overall health improvement in the nation from 2005 to 2006. Some of Illinois’ strengths, according to the report, include high per capita public health spending, a low rate of motor vehicle deaths, a low occupational fatalities rate and few poor physical health days. Significant changes over the past year in the state include a decrease in the percentage of children in poverty and a decrease in the prevalence of smoking.
“Every person in Illinois deserves access to quality healthcare, and we have worked hard over the past four years to improve both quality and access to healthcare for all Illinois residents,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “We’ve helped more children get health insurance through our All Kids program. More women are now eligible for free breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment through our expansion of the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. Our primary seatbelt law means fewer people are dying on Illinois roadways. Our state is a healthier place to live today, and this new study is further proof.”
America’s Health Rankings is produced by United Health Foundation in partnership with the American Public Health Association and Partnership for Prevention, and is a yearly assessment of the relative healthiness of the nation. The report is based upon analysis of comprehensive determining factors such as personal behaviors, the environment in which people live and work, the decisions made by public and elected officials and the quality of medical care delivered by health professionals. The report ranks such factors as smoking prevalence, infectious disease, health insurance, prenatal care, motor vehicle deaths, children in poverty, immunization coverage and cancer deaths.
“Illinois has steadily improved in the overall health of the population since 2002,” said Archello Georgiou, Medical Advisory for United Health Foundation. “One of the most significant improvements in Illinois is the prevalence of smoking, down to 19.9 percent from 22.2 percent in 2005 and down from 28.7 percent in 1990.”
“Under the Direction of Governor Blagojevich, the Illinois Department of Public Health in the past year awarded $15 million in grants for stem cell research to help discover new treatments or cures for diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, increased funding for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, and created the Division of Patient Safety with the goal of reducing medical errors and improving patient care,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health Director. “These are just a few examples of how Illinois is working to improve the health of our state.”
“Governor Blagojevich believes that healthcare is a fundamental right, and he has taken tremendous steps to help every Illinoisan get the care they need,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “Through the Governor’s efforts, we have provided healthcare to every uninsured child in the state, ensured that no senior was left behind by Medicare Part D, and expanded access to healthcare to over half a million Illinoisans who did not have healthcare before.”
Recent improvements to healthcare in Illinois include:
- All Kids: On July 1, 2006, coverage began for Gov. Blagojevich’s All Kids program, which made Illinois the first state in the nation to offer affordable, comprehensive health coverage to every uninsured child. All Kids covers immunizations, doctor visits, and many other healthcare services such as hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care, as well as medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers. Under Gov. Blagojevich, Illinois has provided health coverage to nearly 300,000 children who didn’t have it before, including more than 115,000 children who have enrolled in All Kids since the Governor signed the program into law.
- Division of Patient Safety: Gov. Blagojevich signed an executive order in July 2006 creating the Division of Patient Safety with the goal of reducing medical errors and improving patient safety. The Division will look at e-prescribing, developing standardized medication practices to reduce adverse drug effects and expanding the nursing home database.
- Governor Blagojevich’s Council on Health and Physical Fitness: The Governor convened the Council in August 2006, which is made up of Illinois’ leading health and fitness advocates who will serve to promote exercise and good nutrition across the state. Council members will work to encourage residents to adopt new exercise and eating habits as well as address the epidemics attributed to obesity and chronic disease.
- Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program Expanded: In September 2006 Gov. Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) to allow 3,000 additional uninsured, low income women to be screened and more than 400 additional women to be treated this year through the Healthcare Benefits for Persons with Breast or Cervical Cancer Act. Since Gov. Blagojevich has taken office, more than 126,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings have been performed through programs in the Illinois Department of Public Health.
- Efforts to Increase Smoking Cessation: In 2006, Gov. Blagojevich expanded a smoking cessation campaign to promote use of the Quitline through a public/private partnership among state agencies, provider organizations and the American Lung Association. The Quitline is a help line that offers free, confidential counseling through all stages of the quitting process, including nutrition and weight management, information about cessation medications, and management skills for dealing with withdrawal symptoms. The Quitline (1-866-QUIT-YES or 1-866-784-8937) hours are Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The Department of Healthcare and Family Services is also piloting creative strategies in communities to educate pregnant and post partum women about the health risks to them and their babies caused by smoking and the benefits of quitting.
- BASUAH: Gov. Blagojevich launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called BASUAH, Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS, to address the alarming trend of infection among the state’s African-American community. Through community outreach, testing and positive peer influence, BASUAH is helping to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS while empowering people with the knowledge to better protect themselves.
- Health Care Justice Act: Gov. Blagojevich created the Health Care Justice Act encouraging Illinois to implement a health care plan that provides access to a full range of preventive, acute and long-term health care services, and maintains and improves the quality of health care services. The legislation established an “Adequate Health Care Task Force” with 29 voting members. Public hearings were held in each Illinois Congressional District to gather input for a task force report, currently being created and detailing recommendations for a health care access plan.