Press Release

November 7, 2007

Governor Blagojevich announces Illinois program designed to help uninsured woman live a healthier lifestyle recognized as national model

 Illinois WISEWOMAN Program works to lower heart disease and promotes a healthy lifestyle through physical activity

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced that a state program designed to fight heart disease and help uninsured women live a healthy lifestyle has received national recognition. The Illinois WISEWOMAN (Well-Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation) Program has been chosen by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of six women’s health curriculums it will offer to states, tribes and territories across the country looking to improve women’s health.

“Here in Illinois we’re ahead of the nation when it comes to making sure people who need to see a doctor or need to get treatment have access to health care. We recently became the first state in the nation to give every uninsured woman access to breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment. And last year we made sure that every uninsured child had access to quality, affordable health care. I’m proud that Illinois is also being recognized as a national leader for developing a program which promotes lasting, healthy lifestyles for women,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

The Illinois WISEWOMAN Program aims to lower heart disease and other chronic disease risk factors through screening and a lifestyle intervention program. The lifestyle intervention program is a 12-week nutrition and physical activity program that helps women improve eating and physical activity habits, helps them set goals and gain stress management skills and identifies the importance of keeping a supportive and healthy environment.

“Our goal is to provide women with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to improve diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle behaviors to prevent, delay and control cardiovascular and other chronic diseases,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Damon T. Arnold. “Many women would have been unaware of their risk factors if not for the Illinois WISEWOMAN program and we’re exited that women across the country will now be able to benefit from this program.”

Uninsured women between the ages of 40 and 64, at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level, who are currently enrolled in the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program, are eligible to participate in the Illinois WISEWOMAN Program currently in 21 Illinois counties.

All Illinois WISEWOMAN Program participants receive baseline screening tests, which consist of total lipid profile, blood glucose, blood pressure, dietary intake, physical activity level, height, weight, waist circumference and resting pulse. Participants are eligible for rescreening of these measurements after the 12-week intervention classes. If screenings indicate an abnormal result, the participant can see a medical provider at no cost. Additionally, the Program assists participants with finding free or reduced cost medications if necessary and link them with resources for other needs such as smoking cessation.

“The Illinois WISEWOMAN Program helps the Fulton County Health Department provide essential cardiovascular disease screenings for women in our community who otherwise wouldn't have the means to do so. These classes and screenings change lives. It is so rewarding to equip our women with the tools to fight the number one killer in America: heart disease,” said Theresa Bankert, a nurse with the Fulton County Health Department.

“The WISEWOMAN program has made me more aware of ways I can improve my health, has shown me how to set attainable goals, and has given me tools to use to ensure the success of reaching my personal goals. I have been successful in decreasing my cholesterol levels and maintaining my blood pressure at a normal level. If I have questions or need to refresh my understanding on any of the information, or just need an incentive boost, I can pick up my manual and get back on track; or I can make a phone call to one of the WISEWOMAN facilitators who are always willing and able to help,” said WISEWOMAN participant Candice Kindred.

Heart disease is preventable, however…

  • Nearly 36% of all female deaths in Illinois occur from Cardiovascular Disease (CVD), which includes coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
  • Disease of the heart is the leading cause of death for Illinois women.
  • In 2005, diseases of the heart claimed the lives of 14,383 women.

Last October, Gov. Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) to provide mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams and Pap tests for all uninsured Illinoisans. This expansion provides access to screenings for 261,000 women in Illinois. If diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer upon screening, program participants will have access to coverage for treatment. Launched in 1995, the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program has provided almost 183,000 screenings – more than 109,000 of those screenings have been provided since 2003 under the Blagojevich administration. Other key Governor’s initiatives regarding women’s health include:

  • Stand Against Cancer Initiative: Beginning in 2003, Gov. Blagojevich funded the Stand Against Cancer Initiative (SAC), a community outreach and screening program targeting the hardest to reach minority women.  It is conducted by a coalition of neighborhood organizations, churches and Federally Qualified Health Centers. In fiscal year 2007, SAC provided more than 23,900 breast and cervical cancer screenings and reached more than 324,225 other women through educational programs and outreach.
  • Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer Initiative: In 2005, Gov. Blagojevich launched the Hispanic Breast and Cervical Cancer initiative, which is closely patterned after the Stand Against Cancer initiative. Women screened through the initiative who subsequently need diagnostic tests are referred to local IBCCP lead agencies.
  • Women’s Health-Line:  Increased access to services through Women’s Health-Line and other informational resources.  In FY07, the state-funded toll-free Women’s Health-Line responded to almost 6,000 calls, referring women to services and providing more than 270,000 free educational materials to women and community providers. These materials are also available through the department’s website.
For more information on women’s health issues and programs, call the Women’s Health-Line at 1-888-522-1282 or for TTY (hearing impaired use only), 1-800-547-0466 or log onto the IDPH Web site,

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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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