Press Release

December 7 , 2005



Michelle Obama is the featured speaker

ROSEMONT - More than 300 women health advocates gathered at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Rosemont today for the seventh annual Women’s Health Conference. The two-day conference sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will cover everything from chronic stress, heart health, domestic violence and cultural sensitivity to issues related to HPV and cervical cancer, physical activity, adolescent health, Alzheimer’s disease and the latest information on stem cell research. Participants include local health department staff, health professionals and community agencies.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to bring women’s health care advocates together in the same room and learn from one another, share ideas and build relationships that may help in the women’s health work they do in their own communities,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.

The opening session featured Dr. Lauren Streicher, a well-known gynecologist in Chicago who writes a regular column for the Chicago Sun-Times titled, “Ask the Ob-Gyn.” She has also appeared on The McNeil Lehrer Hour and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the Chicago Tribune.

This year’s featured speaker is Michelle Obama, vice president for community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals and the wife of U.S. Senator Barak Obama. Michelle Obama will talk about how to balance work and family.

Dr. John Kessler of Northwestern University will deliver the keynote address and discussed stem cell research. Dr. Kessler is considered a pioneer in his field and has worked with other researchers in the development of techniques for treatment of spinal cord injury and stroke.

“Stem cell biology will revolutionize the practice of medicine, allowing us treat many previously untreatable diseases. It is critically important for concerned public groups and individuals like the participants of this conference, to understand the potential for stem cell therapies and the need to support research,” said Dr. Kessler.

On Thursday, Sheila Nix, senior policy advisor to Governor Blagojevich will speak about the state’s health care programs and services geared toward women and their families.

The Blagojevich administration has made women’s health a top priority.

  • This Fiscal Year 2005, nearly 18,000 women, 48 percent of whom are minorities, received free screenings through the statewide Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.

  • Gov. Blagojevich added an additional $4 million in state funding to support community-based education initiatives such as the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC). SAC targets the hardest to reach minority women throughout Illinois. The program screened 17,000 women this past year.

  • Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation that created the Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force and plans are underway to help eliminate this preventable disease with the help of the task force.

  • In FY 06, Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation adding ovarian cancer to the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund. In addition, he added $100,000 specifically for ovarian cancer research. Grants totaling $700,000 funded 14 researchers this year through the Penny Severns research fund.

  • The Governor also signed legislation to create “Ticket for the Cure,” a new scratch-off lottery ticket that will direct funding to breast cancer research and fund services for breast cancer victims. The ticket goes on sale January 1, 2006.

In addition to multiple workshops being held over the two-day period, the conference will feature an exhibit hall on December 7.

Further information about the conference can be obtained by calling the Office of Women’s Health at 217-524-6088 or you can find a complete conference schedule at the following link:

idph online home
idph online home

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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