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  • 28 Aug 2023 4:05 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    As the Biden administration makes billions of dollars available to remove millions of dangerous lead pipes that can contaminate drinking water and damage brain development in children, some states are turning down funds. [PBS News Hour and the Chicago Tribune]. A cut pipe is pulled from a dig site for lead testing in Royal Oak, Michigan. Lead can lower IQ and create behavioral problems in children. 

    Picture: Carlos Osorio AP2021

    Washington, Oregon, Maine and Alaska declined all or most of their federal funds in the first of five years that the mix of grants and loans is available, The Associated Press found. Some states are less prepared to pay for lead removal projects because, in many cases, the lead must first be found, experts said. And communities are hesitant to take out loans to search for their lead pipes.

    States shouldn’t “shrug their shoulders” and pass up funds, said Erik Olson, a health and food expert at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.

    “It’s troubling that a state would decide to take a complete pass on the funding because part of the reason for the funding is to figure out whether you even have lead,” Olson said.

    The Biden administration wants to remove all 9.2 million lead pipes carrying water to U.S. homes. Lead can lower IQ and create behavioral problems in children. The 2021 infrastructure law provides $15 billion to find and replace them. That money will help a lot, but it isn’t enough to get all the toxic pipes out of the ground. State programs distribute the federal funds to utilities.

    READ MORE: Officials test Yellowstone River water where train carrying hazardous materials fell in

    The Environmental Protection Agency said it is reviewing state requests to decline funds but did not provide a full list of states that have said no so far. That information will be available in October, officials said. States that declined first-year funds can still accept them during the remaining four years.



  • 25 Aug 2023 3:13 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The number of people experiencing homelessness in Chicago increased between 2020 and 2021, according to a new estimate from Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. [Chicago Tribune-Lizzie Kane; Photo -Brian Cassella -Chicago Tribune]

    The group finds that 68,440 people experienced homelessness in 2021, a 2,829 increase from the previous year, according to the coalition’s report published Thursday. The research shows shifts in the way people experienced homelessness, citing that 7,985 more people were staying on the street or in shelters as opposed to those temporarily staying with others compared with 2020 data.

    The majority of people experiencing homelessness are people of color, with African American Chicagoans ending up homeless more because of racist economic, educational and housing practices, according to the coalition. The coalition finds that Latino Chicagoans are more likely to experience homelessness by doubling up with others. Most families who are experiencing homelessness, as well as many unaccompanied youth — those ages 24 and younger — are temporarily staying with others too.

    The new estimate comes as Chicago Coalition for the Homeless is steering its Bring Chicago Home plan — a proposal to raise the real estate transfer tax on properties worth $1 million or more to pool additional funds to fight homelessness — through a City Council meeting and discussions with Mayor Brandon Johnson.


  • 24 Aug 2023 11:22 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

     Tonjanic Hill was overjoyed in 2017 when she learned she was 14 weeks pregnant. Despite a history of uterine fibroids, she never lost faith that she would someday have a child. [KFF Health News]

    But, just five weeks after confirming her pregnancy, and the day after a gender-reveal party where she announced she was having a girl, she seemed unable to stop urinating. She didn’t realize her amniotic fluid was leaking. Then came the excruciating pain. 

    “I ended up going to the emergency room,” said Hill, now 35. “That’s where I had the most traumatic, horrible experience ever.”

    An ultrasound showed she had lost 90% of her amniotic fluid. Yet, over the angry protestations of her nurse, Hill said, the attending doctor insisted Hill be discharged and see her own OB-GYN the next day. The doctor brushed off her concerns, she said. The next morning, her OB-GYN’s office rushed her back to the hospital. But she lost her baby, Tabitha Winnie Denkins.

    Black women are less likely than women from other racial groups to carry a pregnancy to term — and in Harris County, where Houston is located, when they do, their infants are about twice as likely to die before their 1st birthday as those from other racial groups. Black fetal and infant deaths are part of a continuum of systemic failures that contribute to disproportionately high Black maternal mortality rates.

    “This is a public health crisis as it relates to Black moms and babies that is completely preventable,” said Barbie Robinson, who took over as executive director of Harris County Public Health in March 2021. “When you look at the breakdown demographically — who’s disproportionately impacted by the lack of access — we have a situation where we can expect these horrible outcomes.”

    In fact, Harris County ranks third, behind only Chicago’s Cook County and Detroit’s Wayne County, in what are known as excess Black infant deaths, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. Those three counties, which also are among the nation’s most populated counties, account for 7% of all Black births in the country and 9% of excess Black infant deaths, said Ashley Hirai, a senior scientist at HRSA. The counties have the largest number of Black births but also more deaths that would not occur if Black babies had the same chance of reaching their 1st birthdays as white infants.

    No known genetic reasons exist for Black infants to die at higher rates than white infants. Such deaths are often called “deaths of disparity” because they are likely attributable to systemic racial disparities. Regardless of economic status or educational attainment, the stress from experiencing persistent systemic racism leads to adverse health consequences for Black women and their babies, according to a study published in the journal Women’s Health Issues.

    These miscarriages and deaths can occur even in communities that otherwise appear to have vast health resources. In Harris County, for example, home to two public hospitals and the Texas Medical Center — the largest medical complex in the world, with more than 54 medical-related institutions and 21 hospitals — mortality rates were 11.1 per 1,000 births for Black infants from 2014 through 2019, according to the March of Dimes, compared with 4.7 for white infants.



  • 23 Aug 2023 9:16 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Illinois’ two Democratic senators joined nine colleagues last week urging the Department of Housing and Urban Development to take further steps to address lead poisoning in federally assisted housing.[Health News Illinois]

    The 11 senators, including Sens. Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth, said in a letter sent last week to department Secretary Marcia Fudge that they wanted an update on its implementation of a demonstration program to assess better ways to handle its housing choice vouchers.

    Current statute requires that children in the voucher program develop lead poisoning before a risk assessment is conducted, which the senators said leads to many children — specifically low-income and minority populations — being exposed to lead.

    “We have previously alerted HUD of our great concern and the urgency of addressing childhood lead poisoning in both federally assisted and private market housing, especially because the health and safety of so many vulnerable children are at stake,” the senators said.

    Lawmakers noted the National Housing Law Project estimates 90,000 children in the housing choice voucher program have lead poisoning, and an additional 340,000 children living in federally assisted housing are at risk.

    The agency did not return a request for comment.


  • 22 Aug 2023 5:15 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Illinois will launch a $20 million initiative to address food deserts across the state, per a law signed Friday by Gov. JB Pritzker. [Health News Illinois]

    The initiative will provide wraparound support to local governments and independent grocers opening grocery stores in food deserts. Supports include technical assistance, feasibility studies on operational costs, and access to capital funding for acquiring land, facilities or equipment. 

    Twenty percent of funding may be used for grants for independently owned, cooperative and for-profit grocery stores to make energy-efficient equipment upgrades. 

    Additionally, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will commission a study to explore reasons for food deserts, geographic trends and potential policy solutions.

    Pritzker said during a bill signing in Venice that the law is the latest “holistic approach” to help Illinois families.

    “When our residents struggle to keep a roof over their head, can’t put food on the table or have to choose between paying for basic medical care and keeping the lights on — that’s a failure of the system,” he said.

    More than 3 million Illinoisans live in a food desert, according to the Pritzker administration. 

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture defines deserts as areas that meet certain criteria, such as a local poverty rate of at least 20 percent and a set distance that a group of individuals lives from the nearest grocery store.

    Lawmakers on Friday said the initiative is a key step to addressing one of the major social determinants of health facing Illinoisans. Rep. Mary Beth Canty, D-Arlington Heights, noted those without access to healthy foods often have higher rates of heart disease and diabetes, as well as increased frequency of anxiety and depression. 

    “These problems hamper economic growth, so when communities anywhere struggle with food access, we all pay the price," she said. "By making serious investments in small businesses, we will combat these debilitating problems while helping businesses across the state flourish.” 


  • 21 Aug 2023 1:54 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    At age 30, Jeanine Valrie-Logan was having a miscarriage.

    The room was sterile, cold. Guarded only by a curtain to maintain a semblance of privacy and a thin hospital gown, she sat waiting for the procedure that would remove the remaining pregnancy tissue. [Chicago Tribune]

    As she stood to sit atop the bed that would wheel her to the operating room, the physician asked her, “Do you want me to give you an IUD, so you don’t have any more unplanned pregnancies?”

    The question stopped her in her tracks, and the fear and loneliness she’d been feeling suddenly replaced with profound anger.

    “Who said this was an unwanted pregnancy?” she recalled thinking at the time. “I remember grabbing the nurse and being like, ‘Please do not let him put an IUD in.’”

    Upon waking from the operation, she was told by a supervising nurse that throughout her sleep, she continuously repeated the phrase “Don’t let him take my uterus. Don’t let him take my uterus.”

    The urgent pleas for control over one’s body have been echoed by Black women across Chicago and the country over the course of the nation’s history. Following the death this spring of U.S. Olympic champion sprinter Tori Bowie from complications related to childbirth, a national conversation has been sparked once again over America’s Black maternal mortality rate, the Black community’s mistrust of the medical field and the disproportionate effect on Black women.

    In Chicago, where recent hospital closings have rendered entire swathes of the city “birth deserts,” the issue is laid plain: Black maternal health-care conditions remain dismal despite years of criticism, Black health-care officials say.



  • 18 Aug 2023 10:37 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    The summertime rise in COVID cases and hospitalizations is making some Americans rethink if the pandemic is over, but it isn't persuading them to start wearing masks again or test for the virus, according to the latest Axios-Ipsos American Health Index. [Axios]

    The big picture: Economic and political turmoil, along with unease about developments like AI, have left many Americans numb to public health threats, though issues like the opioid crisis and shortage of cancer drugs are still registering.

    • Gun violence, which ranked as the top threat to public health when we asked the question in May, has dropped to No. 3 behind opioids and obesity, with noticeably fewer Democrats listing it as their top concern.

    What they found: On COVID, 50% somewhat or strongly agree the pandemic is over, compared to 62% in May.

    • The percentage of people who wear a mask some or all of the time has dropped by half over the past six months, to 15%.
    • 69% say contracting COVID poses small or no risk to their health and well-being.
    • 95% say they've taken one or fewer COVID tests at home in the past week.

    What they're saying: "The concern about rising COVID cases is mixed, but what's more clear is that there's really no behavioral change," said Mallory Newall, vice president at Ipsos. "Moreover, the perceived level of risk of contracting COVID remains low — on par with getting a tick or mosquito bite."

    The public's awareness of other health issues is comparatively low. Fewer than half say they're somewhat or very familiar with record-high drug overdose deaths, the ongoing shortages of some cancer drugs or the Food and Drug Administration's approval of over-the-counter birth control. Still, they said they cared about those issues when asked about them.

    • In sizing up what most concerns them, the perceived threat of gun violence appears to be more acutely tied to specific events like widely covered mass shootings while opioid misuse or obesity is more of a constant worry.
    • "It's still definitely a top-tier concern, but lacks the consistent focus we see with opioids," Newall said.
    • Where a person lives is a big factor: Substantially more people in rural areas rank opioids and fentanyl as a top concern than those in urban and suburban areas, who are likelier to rank firearms high on their list.



  • 17 Aug 2023 10:02 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    A representative from the Department of Healthcare and Family Services said Wednesday that outreach efforts continue on new rules for a program that offers Medicaid-like coverage for certain undocumented individuals. [Health News Illinois]

    Ben Winick, HFS chief of staff, told members of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules that they have spent the past month meeting with and receiving feedback from a variety of stakeholders.

    Along with providers like Sinai Chicago, Winick said meetings have been held with groups like the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Refugee Rights, Healthy Community Foundation and Shriver Center on Poverty Law.

    The rules, unveiled earlier this summer, include a pause on new enrollees between the age of 42 and 64 and ​​copays for hospital services not eligible for a federal match.

    Winick told lawmakers they are “very close to finalizing” a customer notice for individuals enrolled in the program as well as a provider notice to better clarify the copay process, specifically to aid individuals where English may not be a first language.

    Additionally, Winick said a virtual public hearing is scheduled for Sept. 5 to discuss permanent rule changes for the program. 

    Rep. Eva-Dina Delgado, D-Chicago, said she anticipates continued interest in future rules related to the program.

    "This will be a topic of conversation that's going to be continuing here before JCAR,” she said.


  • 16 Aug 2023 6:05 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Seven Illinois groups receive $1.4 million to increase health screenings for children | Several Illinois groups will receive nearly $1.4 million in federal funds to increase screenings and follow-up services for children 5 and under. [Health News Illinois]
    The seven health centers will each receive $200,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration.
    The funds are part of $30 million awarded by the agency to 151 centers across 39 states and Puerto Rico.
    “Health centers provide many kinds of support, including screening of young children and connecting them to appropriate services,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. "We urge Congress to fund health centers in a sustainable way, so more Americans benefit from this support."
    See the full list of recipients here.


  • 15 Aug 2023 8:14 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Acrocyanosis, venous pooling of blood in the legs that causes them to turn blue, may be yet another symptom of long COVID, according to a case report published in The Lancet.

    The case report features a 33-year-old man who for 6 months experienced blue legs after 10 minutes of standing, accompanied by a heavy, itching sensation. The legs returned to a normal color after 2 minutes of lying down.

    The man had never experienced blue legs until his long-COVID diagnosis and subsequent diagnosis of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition that causes an abnormal increase in heart rate on standing. When lying down, the man's pulse was 68 beats per minute, but upon standing for 8 minutes, his pulse increased to a maximum of 127 beats per minute.

    The authors of the report said there have been documented cases of acrocyanosis among children experiencing post-viral illness, but few cases have yet to be connected to long COVID.

    "Patients experiencing this may not be aware that it can be a symptom of Long Covid and dysautonomia and may feel concerned about what they are seeing. Similarly, clinicians may not be aware of the link between acrocyanosis and Long Covid," senior author Manoj Sivan, MD, said in a University of Leeds press release.


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