Press Release

April 9, 2008


State public health director kicks-off Minority Health Month and encourages healthier lifestyle

IDPH hosts fun events while raising awareness to eliminate health disparities

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, was at the Springfield Boys and Girls Club to talk about the benefits of exercise and a healthier lifestyle during an event to kick-off Minority Health Month. “Step into a Healthier Lifestyle” is one of approximately 50 events planned throughout April’s Minority Health Month. These events are sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Minority Health Services, to raise awareness and eliminate health disparities in communities of color.

Minority Health Month is a national 30-day health promotion and disease prevention campaign to address the disparity in health outcomes among communities of color.

“We are working hard to ensure all men, women and children in Illinois receive the necessary care to eliminate health disparities among our minority populations,” said Dr. Arnold. “Simple lifestyle changes such as walking and other low impact activities can make a difference to lower the incidence, prevalence, and mortality rate that continue to impact minority groups for preventable health conditions and diseases like cancer, diabetes, and HIV/AIDS.”

Dr. Damon T. Arnold, state public health director, tours the Wellness on Wheels Van

Today’s event officially kicked off the Community Spiritual and Physical Walk Challenge promoting exercise workshops during April. In keeping with the theme “Step into a Healthier Lifestyle,” the importance of exercise was promoted at the event. Setting an example were State Senators Rickey Hendon, of the 5th legislative district, and Kimberly Lightford, of the 4th legislative district, who demonstrated a Chicago dance style called “Stepping.” State Senator Mattie Hunter, of the 3rd legislative district, and Dr. Arnold were wearing pedometers and talked about walking for better health. (A list of this month’s free exercise workshops is at the bottom of this release.)

Educating communities of color about health disparities in their communities and encouraging them about the benefits of exercise is important. Hispanics living in the United States are almost twice as likely to die from diabetes as are non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics also have higher rates of high blood pressure and obesity than non-Hispanic whites.

In the African American community, the infant mortality rate more than doubles that of whites. Heart disease death rates are more than 40 percent higher for African Americans. When it comes to cancer, the death rate is 30 percent higher for African Americans than whites, and more than double that for prostate cancer. African-American women have a higher death rate from breast cancer despite having a mammography screening rate that is almost the same rate as for white women. The death rate from HIV/AIDS for African Americans is more than seven times the rate for whites.

And here, in Illinois, more than half of the total reported HIV/AIDS cases are among African Americans.

Among the programs offered through the Illinois Department of Public Health Center to reduce health disparities:

  • Communities of Color Initiatives – Created in July 2003 by Governor Rod R. Blagojevich, Communities of Color Initiatives address health disparities within the African American and Hispanic communities by working in conjunction with community-based, faith-based, educational institutions and local health departments to provide health prevention information and screening services. The Stand Against Cancer (SAC) program is part of the Communities of Color Initiatives and works to reduce racial and economic disparities by providing access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment. Other aspects of the Communities of Color Initiatives include the Illinois HIV/AIDS Initiative and funding to provide prostate cancer awareness and outreach programs targeting African American men.
  • BASUAH – Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS - On September 15, 2005, Gov. Blagojevich launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to address the alarming trend of infection among the state’s African-American community. The initiative is called the BASUAH Project: Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS. Through community outreach, testing and positive peer influence, the mission is to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS while empowering people with the knowledge to better protect themselves.
  • Illinois Communities of Color HIV/AIDS Hispanic Initiative - to address the disease among the state’s Hispanic community. The initiative aim s to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS while empowering people through community outreach, testing and positive peer influence.

For more information about the Center for Minority Health, call 217-785-3411 or log on to the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site at

Celebrate Minority Health Month


“Step into a Healthier Lifestyle”

Free Exercise Workshops

Greater All Nations Tabernacle Church COGIC
1000 S. 19th St.
Wednesdays - April 2, 16, 23, and 30
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Special exercise sessions for seniors only

Capital City Church of God
2501 E. Cook
Mondays - April 7, 14, 21, and 28
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Union Baptist Church
1405 E. Monroe St .
Mondays - April 7, 14, 21, and 28
Time: 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Victory Temple Church of God in Christ
1428 E. Jackson St .
Fridays - April 4, 11, 18, and 25
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

These events are sponsored by Illinois Department of Public Health’s Center for Minority Health Services. For more information, please call Doris Turner at 217-785-4311.

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Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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