Log in


  • 26 Jan 2022 5:29 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    When COVID-19 safety measures led schools and workplaces to close in spring 2020, 25% of households with children experienced food security. [ Mark Barna The Nation's Health January 2022, 51 (10) 17]

    In response, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a series of waivers and flexibilities that allowed school districts and other local sponsors to continue operating child nutrition programs through school systems. The waivers reduced longstanding barriers in child nutrition efforts, dramatically increasing participation in the summer school meals program, according to research presented at APHA’s 2021 Annual Meeting and Expo in October.

    Research conducted in Maryland, North Carolina and New York during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic found that participation in school meal programs lagged in spring but increased dramatically in summer. In Maryland, for example, which has about 1,500 schools and 1 million students, school meal programs served 6.5 million additional meals in summer 2020. The increase represented a 210% jump over summer 2019.

    Eligibility waivers made the difference, researchers said. USDA waived its requirement that meals be served in group settings, which meant families could take advantage of grab-and-go drive-up services and pre-order meals. The agency also extended the hours meals could be available. Many states, meanwhile, took advantage of the federal option of expanding the geographic region where students could get meals.


    USDA eligibility waivers for the federal school meals program increased student participation, serveral studies say.

    Photo by Wavebreakmedia, courtesy iStockphoto

    The highest increase in summer meal program participation occurred in June and August.

    School meal participation is associated with improved food security, dietary quality and academic performance, said Susan Gross, PhD, MPH, an associate scientist and nutritionist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who co-authored the Maryland study. USDA waivers allowed for innovation in preparing and distributing meals to meet student needs. Availability and accessibility of meals improved participation.

    “We see now that out-of-school meal time is a really crucial time,” said Gross, an APHA member.

    APHA has repeatedly called for expanding children’s access to school meals. The Association is a member of the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity coalition, which advocates for child nutrition programs that protect and strengthen evidence-based nutrition standards for school meals and other foods sold in schools. Through the coalition and separately, APHA has supported strengthening, protecting and expanding access to school nutrition programs.

    In April, USDA announced an extension of school meal waivers through the 2021-2022 school year. Four months later, Johns Hopkins and Maryland Hunger Solutions issued a brief saying the USDA waivers issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic should be made permanent.

    “Program flexibilities provided by COVID-19-related nationwide waivers have reduced longstanding barriers to (summer food service program) participation while simultaneously reducing the administrative burden on sponsors, increasing participation numbers and making the SFSP more efficient and effective in addressing food insecurity,” the policy brief said.

    • Copyright The Nation’s Health, American Public Health Association

  • 25 Jan 2022 3:50 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is calling on the state’s healthcare providers to promote federal scholarship and loan repayment funding for healthcare workers. [Health News Illinois 1.25.2022]

    In a letter sent last week to over a dozen state health associations, Durbin said the funding is available as part of $1 billion allocated in the American Rescue Plan’s National Health Service Corps and Nurse Corps programs.

    “The pandemic has underscored the long-term challenges in our healthcare delivery system, and it is my hope that this significant new funding and emphasis on recruiting a diverse workforce can help begin to close gaps and promote equity,” Durbin said in the letter.

    There were more than 800 trained professionals providing care in urban and rural parts of Illinois through the programs last fall, according to Durbin’s office. 

     The programs provide scholarship and loan repayment options to qualified primary care medical, dental and behavioral health clinicians.


  • 24 Jan 2022 5:30 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Disasters are an important public health issue; however, there is scarce evidence to date on what happens when communities and populations experience more than one disaster. This scoping review identifies literature on the effects of multiple disasters published until Aug 2, 2021, 1425 articles were identified, of which 150 articles were included. We analysed direct and indirect public health implications of multiple disasters. Our analysis suggests that exposure to multiple disasters can affect mental health, physical health, and wellbeing, with some evidence that the potential risks of multiple disaster exposure exceed those of single disaster exposure. We also identified indirect public health implications of multiple disaster exposure, related to changes in health-care facilities, changes in public risk perception, and governmental responses to multiple disasters. We present findings on community recovery and methodological challenges to the study of multiple disasters, and directions for future research.  [Lancet Public Health 1.19.2022] 

    Download full article here> 


  • 21 Jan 2022 5:03 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    NEW YORK (AP) — Three studies released Friday offered more evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are standing up to the omicron variant, at least among people who received booster shots.

    [The Journal of the American Medical Association published the third study, also led by CDC researchers. It looked at people who tested positive for COVID-19 from Dec. 10 to Jan. 1 at more than 4,600 testing sites across the U.S.] 

    They are the first large U.S. studies to look at vaccine protection against omicron, health officials said.

    The papers echo previous research — including studies in Germany, South Africa and the U.K. — indicating available vaccines are less effective against omicron than earlier versions of the coronavirus, but also that boosters doses rev up virus-fighting antibodies to increase the chance of avoiding symptomatic infection.

    The first study looked at hospitalizations and emergency room and urgent care center visits in 10 states, from August to this month.

    Full article here> 

  • 20 Jan 2022 8:55 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Omicron and staffing constraints pushed hospitals and health systems to once again suspend nonurgent, elective procedures — a move that hurts patients and their care teams.

    Physicians told The Washington Post that notifying patients of their surgeries being postponed is one of the most difficult things they do during the pandemic, and the idea of prolonging patients' suffering is anguishing. In interviews, a patient rated the pain he felt from a ruptured cervical disk — for which his surgery has been indefinitely postponed at Mercy Health-St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, Ohio — as a 12 out of 10. 

    In addition to extended pain, pushed back surgeries leave more time for disease advancement. Certain cancers can advance to later stages in four to eight weeks, for instance. Even procedures considered low acuity, such as joint replacements or bariatric cases, will have material implications from delays through reduced activity, mobility and quality of life for patients. Delays in surgery have also been shown to result in higher rates of surgical site infections.

    "I'd say it's a bona fide mess right now," Kenneth Kaufman, chair and founding partner of Kaufman Hall, told The Washington Post. "We seem to be back to square one. Omicron has significantly compounded staffing shortages in a very profound way."

    Full article here>


  • 19 Jan 2022 8:47 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)


    Chicago's top doctor said Wednesday the city has passed the peak of the current omicron-fueled COVID-19 surge, while state officials said they were "cautiously optimistic" Illinois has done so as well. [Health News Illinois 1.20.2022]

    Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady said new cases peaked on Dec. 27, while test positivity peaked on Jan. 1.

    “We are a long way from being out of the woods," she said. "However, I'm really pleased to have seen this turnaround."

    The seven-day average for new daily cases in Chicago is 2,819, a 50 percent decrease from the prior week. The seven-day test positivity rate is 11.9 percent, a 5.5 percentage point decrease from the prior week.

    Omicron makes up 99.3 percent of new cases being reported, Arwady said.

    Hospitalizations have slowly started to plateau, though she said they remain concerned with the overall high number. Chicago is averaging 203 COVID-19-related hospitalizations per day, down six from the prior week.

    “I want to emphasize we probably will continue to see hundreds of Chicagoans being admitted to the hospital, so the threat is in no way over,” Arwady said.

    About 78.6 percent of eligible Chicagoans have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 70.1 percent are fully vaccinated.

    State officials said at a later press conference they were hopeful that Illinois has seen the worst of the current surge.

    “I am cautiously optimistic in reporting the decreasing trends in the number of cases and the number of emergency department visits, as well as the number of hospitalizations over the past week,” Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike told reporters, noting there still are more people in Illinois hospitals during this surge than at any other point in the pandemic.

    Gov. JB Pritzker said they look at hospitalization, ICU bed and ventilator usage to determine whether Illinois has passed its peak, and those "all seem to be going the right direction."

    As of Tuesday, 6,507 Illinoisans were in the hospital with COVID-19, down 188 from Monday and down 712 from the prior week.

    Of the patients in the hospital, 1,085 were in intensive care units, down 35 from Monday and down 46 from the prior week. There were 608 patients on ventilators, down 20 from Monday and down 42 from the prior week.

    There were 26,491 new COVID-19 cases and 160 deaths reported on Wednesday. The new cases bring the state total to 2,709,474, while the death toll increased to 29,510.

    The seven-day average for new cases on Friday was 26,646, down 5,855 from the prior week. The seven-day average for daily deaths is 101, up eight from the prior week.

    The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests is 12 percent. The seven-day statewide test positivity using the number of COVID-19 positive tests over total tests is 15 percent.

    About 78.9 percent of eligible Illinoisans ages 5 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 69.4 percent are fully vaccinated.

    Illinois vaccinators have administered 20,110,501 COVID-19 vaccines, per state data, including 3,657,437 booster doses. The seven-day average of doses administered is 46,866.


  • 18 Jan 2022 7:25 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

     Months after stakeholders publicly said they were getting close to an agreement to reform the Medicaid reimbursement system for Illinois’ long-term care facilities, a schism has developed between the state and Illinois’ largest nursing home association on how to go forward during the spring session. [Health News Illinois 1.13.2022]

    Legislation supported by the Department of Healthcare and Family Services was filed last week. It includes many of the details laid out last fall during multiple legislative hearings, including a patient-driven payment model and dedicated funding for staffing increases and workforce transformation. It would also reward providers for achieving higher levels of care.

    But, a spokesman for the Health Care Council of Illinois said this week they are opposed to the HFS-backed plan.

    They are behind a separate proposal filed Monday that calls for increasing the skilled nursing facility bed tax to the federal maximum, which the association says will allow facilities to increase wages, hire additional staff and expand access to care for underserved communities. It also distributes additional funding to facilities that primarily serve Medicaid members.

    Additionally, the measure creates a committee appointed by the four legislative leaders that would oversee, assess and provide direction to HFS on long-term care services.

    Health Care Council of Illinois Executive Director Matt Pickering said their plan is a “common-sense” approach toward addressing funding and staffing shortages in the nursing home industry.

    “By increasing Medicaid funding for skilled nursing facilities with high percentages of low-income residents, we can prioritize quality care for our state’s most vulnerable residents - especially those in minority communities, increase wages, create more jobs and ultimately stabilize the Illinois long-term care safety net system,” he said in a statement.

    HFS Director Theresa Eagleson told Health News Illinois Wednesday the Health Care Council of Illinois-backed plan is a "distraction" from the work that has been done over the past 18 months to pass agreed-upon language.

    “We're going to focus our efforts on continuing to move the language that's already been out there, that language that's been vetted and discussed with not only legislators, but many interest groups for months,” she said. “We've said for 18 months now that we don't think the industry should get any more money that's not tied to actual improvements in quality and stuff.”

    Eagleson said stakeholders have been negotiating in recent months with the idea they had a "conceptual agreement" in place on the key issues.

    “Most of what we've seen, unfortunately, has been ways to elongate movement on the reform side or to continue to stall reforms,” she said.

    Illinois’ two other nursing home associations said this week they support the HFS-backed plan.

    “​​There's a lot that gives me concern in the HCCI approach,” said Matt Hartman, executive director of the Illinois Health Care Association. Among those concerns is allowing a bed tax to be implemented without corresponding rate reform.

    Such a move would lead to the postponement of funding and accountability for staffing and quality, said LeadingAge Illinois CEO Angela Schnepf.

    “To increase the tax on quality providers, particularly nonprofits that reinvest money back into resident care, and not require rate reform, is similar to taking money away from resident care and putting it into the pockets of private owners and shareholders,” she said.

    The Health Care Council of Illinois is concerned about how the HFS-backed plan could affect certain nursing homes. The association reiterated Wednesday that the HFS-backed plan will put up to 50 nursing homes, predominantly those that serve Medicaid populations, at risk of closing.

    “Closure at this scale would displace an estimated 5,000 nursing facility residents located mostly in rural areas and communities of color,” they said.

    Andy Allison, HFS’ deputy director for strategic planning and analytics, said Wednesday they disagree with that analysis. He said assuming those 50 homes are at risk of closures means their management would not adapt to changes in the rate reform proposal, such as additional funding to support staffing.

    “That's not the business of the state, to spend billions of dollars on naive assumptions about the future,” he said.


  • 17 Jan 2022 11:56 AM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Wednesday, January 26, 2022
    12:00 - 1:30 PM (Central Standard Time)

    Register  here


    Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health

    Dr. Pastor Castell-Florit, Director, National School of Cuban Public Health (ENSAP)

    Dr. Emilio Delgado, Director of Public Health, Havana Province, Cuba

    Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Director, Illinois Department of Public Health

    Dr. Wayne Giles, Dean, University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health

    Dr. Pedro Más Bermejo, Professor, Pedro Kourí Tropical Medicine Institute, Havana, Coordinator of Epidemiology & Modeling, National COVID-19 Group, Ministry of Public Health, Cuba

    Ms. Gail Reed, Executive Editor, MEDICC Review

    Dr. Peter Orris, Global Health Program, UIC School of Public Health 

    The event will take place via Zoom. Simultaneous translation between English and Spanish will be available.

    Cosponsored by the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health Global Health Program, National School of Cuban Public Health, and MEDICC Review

    Download Flyer here


  • 14 Jan 2022 1:04 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    CHICAGO — Millions of people in Illinois will soon have access to free at-home COVID-19 testing under a new Biden administration rule that will require insurance companies to cover the cost of tests. [Patch 1.11.2022]

    Those in Illinois covered by private insurance will have free access to over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests starting Jan. 15. Tests can be purchased online or at a pharmacy or store, and they will be covered upfront by a health plan or through reimbursement.

    "We are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a news release Monday.

    Under the rule, insurance companies and health plans will be required to cover eight free at-home tests per covered individual per month. A doctor's note isn't required to obtain the tests, which must be authorized, cleared or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

    This means a family of four on the same insurance plan would be eligible for up to 32 free tests per month; however, there is no limit on the number of tests covered if ordered or administered by a health care provider.

    The Biden Administration also said it's "incentivizing" insurers and group health plans to set up programs allowing people in Illinois to get over-the-counter tests directly through preferred pharmacies, retailers or other entities with no out-of-pocket costs.

    Looking for an at-home test in Illinois? Here are some stores and pharmacies you can check:

    • Walgreens (Has a purchase limit in place)
    • CVS (Purchase limit in place)
    • Walmart: (Some stores may have purchase limits in place)
    • Jewel-Osco stores have offered both swab and spit at-home tests in the past

    If you don't have private insurance or coverage through a group plan, you still have access to free tests in Chicago. Head to any of the following community testing sites or locations offering free at-home tests.

    • RUSH LITTLE VILLAGE: Second Federal Credit Union, 3960 W. 26th St.
    • ESPERANZA BRIGHTON PARK: 4700 S. California Ave. Testing available Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:50 p.m. (no testing on Thursdays or Sundays)
    • Dirksen U.S. Courthouse (starting Wednesday): 219 S. Dearborn St. Testing Available Monday-Friday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
    • Other State of Illinois Community testing sites around the greater Chicago area may be found by clicking here


  • 13 Jan 2022 1:05 PM | Deborah Hodges (Administrator)

    Over the past 20 months, we have all been bombarded with information about COVID-19. From professional journals to Facebook, it has been nearly impossible to stay away from data for more than a few minutes. Every conversation with family and friends, every news report, every work-related policy, every travel plan, and every wedding invitation and dinner plan have had at least a few minutes of discussion about COVID-19. Truth and lies have comingled in ways that I had not seen before in my life. Nor had I ever thought carefully about politics as another determinant of health. [American Public Health Association, January 2022 by José Ramón Fernández-PeñaMD, MPA

    But, as president of the American Public Health Association (APHA), I’ve had the opportunity over the past year to hear from people around the country about their stories and about how they are coping with this pandemic. I have heard from colleagues who remained determined to do the right thing for the health of their communities, even when their employment was in jeopardy and they and their families received threats. I have heard from some friends and relatives who think that this is all a big hoax and that I should really read this or that thing their friend posted on Twitter. I have been moved to tears by the dedication of so many, and I have been—and remain—incensed at the intentional disinformation campaigns.

    I’ve read about the impact on the economy, on the health sector, on educational achievement, and on the food chain, to name a few. But the report that struck me the most was one that stated that, on average, every person who dies from COVID-19 leaves behind nine mourners. This means there are almost 42 million people in the world mourning the loss of a loved one, 6 million of those in the United States.

    I try to grasp the impact of this pandemic on the emotional well-being of the world I live in. Besides everything else, how do we come back from this pain? How do we heal from these losses and attempt to return to some semblance of normalcy in our everyday lives? How do we heal the social wounds that have been inflicted on this nation by a false narrative that has only fostered a longer agony? I am no thanatologist but can offer some thoughts about what I’m doing in this regard. 

    First, I acknowledge the losses and build healing spaces for individuals and communities to mourn in their own ways.

    Second, I redouble my efforts to remove the structural inequities that foster the uneven distribution of the burden of disease.

    Third, I recommit to redressing the pervasive racist practices that continue to keep historically marginalized communities out of the rooms where decisions are made.

    Fourth, I look back and examine how we have managed the situation, what we did right, and what we did wrong.

    Fifth, I continue to advocate adequate funding for the public health infrastructure and emergency preparedness systems.

    Sixth, I amplify my work in the realm of civic engagement and voter registration to ensure that every voice is heard.

    Seventh, I work to strengthen our ability to respond quickly and assertively to disinformation campaigns.

    Eighth, I seek to partner with key players outside our field to better understand the issues and to help us extend our reach.

    Ninth, I renew my efforts to develop a health workforce that mirrors the population it serves.

    Tenth, I don’t forget to allow myself to laugh, to weep, and to take a break.

    It’s been an honor to be the “virtual president” of the APHA.AJPH signature icon

    Download full article here> 


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software