Press Release

August 15, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich promotes physical activity and good nutrition during Governor’s Day at the Illinois State Fair

Free health screenings and activities help promote a healthy lifestyle  

SPRINGFIELD – In an effort to highlight the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich took part in free health screenings, dental exams and various physical activities today at the Illinois State Fair. Over the years the prevalence of overweight and obesity due to physical inactivity and unhealthy eating habits has increased in the U.S. and Illinois for both adults and children. Gov. Blagojevich today encouraged people to increase their physical activity, eat healthy and get regular health screenings to help reduce their risk of chronic diseases and help improve the overall health of Illinoisans.

“Staying active and eating right is important to living a healthier lifestyle. Taking control of your health can help reduce your risk of cancer, diabetes and heart disease and can also decrease your medical bills,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “It is also important to make sure you get routine health screenings like blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose and I encourage women to make sure they receive regular mammograms and men receive routine prostate exams. All these preventive measures will help improve the overall health of Illinois residents.”

Along with free glucose, blood pressure, cholesterol and vision/hearing testing, water and healthy snacks were available during today’s event. Kids had the chance to visit today with the Tooth Fairy and participate in fun activities like jump rope and potato sack races, which are alternative ways to stay physically active and get exercise. The Illinois Department of Public Health provided two of its Wellness on Wheels vans to offer HIV testing, dental exams and educational health information.

Between 1976–1980 and 2003–2004, the prevalence of obesity among adults aged 20–74 years increased from 15 percent to almost 33 percent. Among young people, the prevalence of overweight increased from 5 percent to almost 14 percent for those aged 2–5 years, 6.5 percent to almost 19 percent for those aged 6–11 years, and 5 percent to 17 percent for those aged 12–19 years according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

People who are obese are at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis-related disabilities, and some cancers. The estimated total cost of obesity in the United States in 2000 was about $117 billion according to the CDC.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. The CDC reports chronic diseases account for seven of every 10 deaths and affect the quality of life of 90 million Americans. Chronic disease are not only the most common health problems, they are also the most expensive. However, these diseases are also the most preventable and can be prevented or controlled by eating nutritious food and being physically active. Getting routine check-ups can also help doctors identify chronic diseases or other health issues that, if caught early, can be treated and possibly eliminated.

“Getting regular exams and health screening can help save lives. Blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, mammograms and prostate exams can help find problems early and improve the chances of successful treatment or even a cure,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director.

Gov. Blagojevich has worked to improve the health of Illinois citizens by increasing access to healthcare for working families and encouraging Illinois citizens to lead healthier lives.

In January 2007 Gov. Blagojevich announced that Illinois received the highest grade possible in a University of Baltimore Obesity Report Card for the state’s efforts to control and lower childhood obesity rates. Illinois received an “A” for banning junk food and soda in elementary and middle schools in the state. In March 2006, the Illinois State Board of Education adopted the Governor’s proposal to ban junk food and soda in Illinois elementary and middle schools. Research shows that healthier students have higher attendance rates, better behavior, and superior test scores. The rules prohibit junk food during the entire school day in elementary and middle schools.

In April 2007 the State Health Improvement Plan (SHIP) was finalized and released. Gov. Blagojevich signed legislation in 2004 calling for the development of a comprehensive statewide plan that recommends strategies to improve the public health system and the health status of Illinois residents. The State Health Improvement Plan was created and circulated at hearings in southern, central and northern Illinois. In line with the Governor’s commitment to encourage Illinoisan to lead healthier lifestyles, Illinois’ first SHIP focuses on obesity, physical activity, alcohol, tobacco, drug abuse and violence as keys to improving the health of state residents.
  • In September 2006 Gov. Blagojevich expanded the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) enabling up to 3,000 more uninsured, low-income women in the state to be eligible for free cancer screenings and treatment. A study by the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network Collaborators estimated that breast cancer screening reduced the rate of death from breast cancer by up to 23 percent, and found that treatment is likely to be more effective if cancer is detected at an earlier stage.
  • In August 2006 Gov. Blagojevich convened Governor Blagojevich’s Council on Health and Physical Fitness. The Council consist Illinois’ leading health and fitness advocates who are working to promote exercise and good nutrition across the state. Council members are encouraging residents to adopt new exercise and eating habits as well as address the epidemics attributed to obesity and chronic disease.
  • In November 2005, Gov. Blagojevich signed the All Kids program into law, making affordable, comprehensive health insurance available to all uninsured children in Illinois. Since taking office in January 2003, Gov. Blagojevich has expanded health care coverage to more than 400,000 Illinoisans through programs like FamilyCare and All Kids. The Kaiser Family Foundation has ranked Illinois first in the nation for ensuring parents have access to health care and second best state in the nation for providing health care to children who need it.
  • In September 2005, Gov. Blagojevich launched the BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) initiative. BASUAH targets the African American community to combat the high rate of HIV/AIDS cases reported within that community in Illinois. Although African Americans only comprise about 15-percent of the state's population, they represented more than half of the state's newly reported HIV/AIDS cases in 2004. Thanks to the BASUAH initiative, Illinois now has rapid HIV/AIDS testing to make detecting the disease easier and to encourage people to get tested sooner and routinely.
  • The Illinois Department of Public Health has worked, through its Heart Smart for Women and Heart Smart for Teens programs, to educate women and girls about the risk factors of cardiovascular diseases, promote the importance of a healthy diet and physical activity and assist in developing a healthier lifestyle.
Gov. Blagojevich has supported a Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), a curriculum and physical education program. State public health director Dr. Whitaker announced in July 2007 eleven additional elementary schools participating in the program. A follow-up evaluation completed at the end of the 2005 school year shows that moderate to vigorous physical activity in CATCH classes increased by 15 percent and the time students were active during class more than doubled. A total of 51 Illinois elementary schools are participating in CATCH.

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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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