Press Release

April 23 , 2007


IDPH teams up with area ministers during
Minority Health Month to raise awareness about
Black Men’s Health

State Public Health Director explains the benefits of Gov. Blagojevich’s Illinois Covered plan while encouraging better health choices and testin 

CHICAGO – Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker today encouraged African-American men to take charge of their health by making better choices and taking advantage of testing for certain diseases and conditions. “Maximize Our Lives - Black Men's Health Awareness” was the theme of today’s luncheon, sponsored by IDPH’s Center for Minority Health Services, in partnership with the Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago. The luncheon was one of 70 IDPH events held this April in observance of Minority Health Month.

“We continue to see disparities in the health of Black men,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Black men are suffering from high blood pressure, heart disease, and prostate cancer at higher rates than their counterparts. While efforts are being made to provide better access to quality healthcare, Black men must also do their part to stay healthy. Eat healthy, exercise and have routine tests done to ensure you don’t have a problem.”

Dr. Whitakers addressed the group shortly after Governor Rod R. Blagojevich proclaimed April 23 to 29 Cover the Uninsured Week in Illinois to highlight the struggle of the 1.4 million adults in Illinois who are uninsured. During the luncheon, Dr. Whitaker took the opportunity to explain how the governor’s Illinois Covered plan can help African American men by ensuring that they, along with all Illinoisans, have access to quality, affordable healthcare. According to a recent survey, over 22 percent of the State’s uninsured are African American. These numbers are startling given the fact that African Americans only make up a little over 15 percent of the total population.

“I applaud the Governor for coming up with this comprehensive, aggressive plan to change this broken healthcare system,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Illinois Covered, benefits hospitals, insurance companies, employers and most importantly---those who don’t have or can’t afford quality healthcare. Lack of insurance is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Ensuring health insurance means saving lives.”

Governor Blagojevich established four guiding principles for Illinois’ healthcare that is evident in his record through bills he has signed and policy decisions he has made during his administration. They are:

  • Expand coverage to more people who need healthcare
  • Protect children and parents who rely on Medicaid coverage
  • Provide more help to healthcare providers so they can do their job and help the people of Illinois
  • Make healthcare more affordable for senior citizens, the uninsured, women, and small businesses.

Efforts to raise awareness and eliminate health disparities include working with community and faith based organizations. Other programs to reduce the health disparities include:

  • 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 - Gov. Blagojevich launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, on September 15, 2005, 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.

A calendar detailing Minority Health Month events is located on the Illinois Department of Public Health Web site at or by calling the Center for Minority Health at (217) 785-3411.

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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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