Press Release

October 14, 2006


Center for Minority Health Services stresses the importance of mammograms and early detection of breast cancer for African-American women

 African-American women 60 percent more likely to die of breast cancer  

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Although African-American and Caucasian women are diagnosed with breast cancer at approximately the same rate, African-American women are 60 percent more likely to die from breast cancer than Caucasian women. As part of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Illinois Department of Public Health Center for Minority Health Services along with the University of Illinois at Springfield Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, Greater All Nations Tabernacle Church of God in Christ and the W.K. Kellogg Executive Leaders Fellowship sponsored the “Communities Working Together for a Cure” event at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center to emphasis the need for annual mammograms and stress the importance of early detection.

“Some of the reasons given for the high breast cancer mortality rate among African-American women include lack of insurance; lower rates of screenings; delayed diagnosis, follow-up and/or treatment; poor doctor-patient communication; and perceptions of being treated with respect and cultural sensitivity,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “The “Communities Working Together for a Cure” event is the perfect opportunity for African-American women to learn about the importance of early detection as well as screening and treatment options for breast cancer – such as the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program – in a comfortable and supportive setting,”

“A lot of women don’t talk about breast cancer out of fear, but this event is a way for those women to get important information without having to talk about it,” said breast cancer survivor Jennifer Jackson. “This event is also a celebration of life, which is more appealing to women than a formal event where women hesitate to attend and are not as relaxed and open to information.”

The Center for Minority Health Services received $4.2 million for the Illinois Communities of Color Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative for the 2007 fiscal year. This Initiative includes Stand Against Cancer (SAC) and the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer Program. Both programs work in collaboration with local health departments as well as community and faith based organizations to provide outreach, education, screenings and follow-up services to minority women. In fiscal year 2006, the Initiative 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.

Eliminating health disparities and improving access to health care have been two priorities of Governor Rod R. Blagojevich. Beginning 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 125,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings have been performed through programs in the Illinois Department of Public Health.

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, Governor 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, administered by Healthcare and Family Services, 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.  House Bill 3564 expanded and renamed the Penny Severns Breast and Cervical Cancer Research Fund to include ovarian cancer research. Senate Bill 521 requires insurers to provide coverage for ovarian cancer screening tests for women who are at risk. In 2004, Gov. Blagojevich also signed legislation creating a 12-member Cervical Cancer Elimination Task Force to help educate the public about cervical cancer and develop a statewide comprehensive prevention and control plan.
  • Women’s Health Initiative Grants: For fiscal year 2007 $1.6 million in grants was awarded to organizations across the state to continue or implement IDPH health initiative programs. Those programs include: Heart Smart for Teens, Heart Smart for Women, Building Better Bones, Osteoporosis Prevention for Teens, Jump Girl Jump, Understanding Menopause and the pilot program Comprehensive Women’s Health.
  • IllinoisWISEWOMAN Program:  Providing the WISEWOMAN cardiovascular research program in both English and Spanish languages in 21 Illinois counties.  The project is targeted toward women enrolled in the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program and helps them reduce heart disease by leading healthier lifestyles.
  • 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 website.

Women can find out how to get breast cancer screening and treatment by logging on to or by calling the Women’s Health-Line at 888-522-1282 or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 800-547-0466. Information on women’s health issues and programs can also be found on the IDPH website,

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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