April 29, 2008
State's top doc encourages communities to fight stds and health disparities during national std awareness and minority health month
Public health director encourages town meetings to address health issues unique to each community
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, director for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), led a town hall meeting, “Girl did you know…” to address a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found African-American teenage girls were most severely affected by sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Held at Union Baptist Church in Springfield , the meeting included a discussion led by a panel of health officials and an audience question and answer period.
“I encourage communities throughout Illinois to hold town meetings, like the one tonight, involving local government officials, health professionals and community groups to learn about the problems and health risks associated with STDs, to address health disparities and to develop a plan to fight these problems” said Dr. Arnold.
In July 2003 Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich announced the Communities of Color Initiative, administered by the Illinois Department of Public Health's Center for Minority Health Services, to address health disparities within African American and Hispanic communities. The initiative works in conjunction with community-based and faith-based organizations, educational institutions and local health departments to provide health prevention information and screening services to these often underserved communities.
Tonight's meeting demonstrates the Governor's ongoing commitment to addressing health disparities in Illinois and will help the State identify ways to fight the alarming rate of STDs among minority populations.
A CDC study released last month estimated that one in four teens in the U.S. between the ages of 14-19 is infected with at least one STD and that African-American teenage girls were most severely affected. Almost half of young African-American women (48 percent) were estimated to be infected with an STD, compared to 20 percent of young Caucasian women.
John M. Douglas, Jr., M.D., director of CDC's Division of STD Prevention, was quoted in a recent CDC release saying, “High STD infection rates among young women, particularly young African-American women, are clear signs that we must continue developing ways to reach those most at risk.”
“We are conducting this town hall meeting in Springfield tonight because it is one of the communities in Illinois most affected by STDs. It is important for communities to work together to help prevent and reduce the high rate of infection, especially among women and adolescents,” said Dr. Arnold.
The following is provisional data for 2007.
The rate of gonorrhea cases in Sangamon County is 112 percent higher than the statewide rate, and the rate for gonorrhea is 30 percent higher.
Chlamydia case rate per 100,000
Gonorrhea case rate per 100,000
From 2000 to 2007, the number of reported syphilis cases in Sangamon County has increased by 300 percent, chlamydia cases have increased by 86 percent and gonorrhea cases by almost 10 percent.
In Sangamon County, the number of reported cases of chlamydia among women (832) is 3.3 times greater than among men (250) and the number of gonorrhea cases among women (430) is 2.0 times greater than among men (220).
The number of reported cases of gonorrhea in 2007 among African Americans (404) is two times greater than the number of cases among Caucasians (204). Also, the number of reported cases of chlamydia among African Americans (587) is 1.5 times greater than the number of cases among Caucasians (403).
Teenage women between the ages of 15-19 in Sangamon County accounted for 44 percent (364) of all reported cases of chlamydia among women (832) and 41 percent (176) of all reported cases of gonorrhea among women (430) in 2007.
Also in 2007, women age 15-24 accounted for 74 percent (30,637) of all chlamydia cases in Illinois women (41,601) and 54 percent of all reported cases of chlamydia in women were among African Americans (22,266).
IDPH encourages health care providers to test all sexually active females 15 to 24 years of age at least annually for chlamydia. IDPH, in collaboration with school based health centers, family planning clinics, adult and juvenile correctional centers and other agencies serving females at increased risk for chlamydia infection, performed more than 170,000 tests for chlamydia during 2007 in order to halt disease transmission by identifying and treating infected persons.
IDPH, in partnership with local health departments, ensures STD diagnostic and treatment services are accessible throughout Illinois; monitors and responds to sexually transmitted disease trends ensuring that persons infected with STDs receive appropriate treatment, counseling and referral; conducts screening programs; funds innovative community based initiatives to prevent and contain STDs such as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department's Mobile Health Vans and the Howard Brown Health Center's Out Reach Testing and Education Services in suburban Cook County and special STD prevention grants to 22 local health departments with high rates of chlamydia; provides vaccinations for hepatitis A and B to persons attending STD clinics; and provides technical assistance and training to health care providers regarding STD testing, treatment and follow-up.
By acknowledging the presence of health disparities and discussing what services are available to help reduce the spread of STDs in a community, each community should develop a coordinated approach among numerous groups and organizations to address these issues.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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