Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 08, 2012

Champaign County Schools Adopt Anti-Obesity Initiative

Several schools in Champaign County have adopted a nationwide anti-obesity initiative, known as the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH).

(Funded in part by a grant from the Lumpkin Family Foundation)

Several schools in Champaign County have adopted a nationwide anti-obesity initiative known as the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH).

Carrie Busey Elementary in Campaign began the CATCH initiative in 2009. CATCH schools get state money from the Illinois Department of Human Services over a three year period. That support, which gradually decreases over the three years, is used to revamp lunch menus, add new gym equipment, or expand nutrition education in the classroom.

Mariah Burt, who is a music teacher at Carrie Busey, has her class compose rap music related to health and wellness.

Fourth graders Peja Rowan, Ariany Smith, and Lily Smith stand in front of the class, performing original songs about nutrition. They use body and vocal percussion, such as stomping their feet and beatboxing: "I love you. You love apples. Remix... We eat fruit...You should too...We also eat vegetables with you...That's what you're supposed to do."

Burt said the songs about nutrition that come out of her classroom don't just stay in her class.

"Sometimes a kid will be sitting at lunch and see another kid bring a candy bar and say, 'Hey, remember the rap we did the other day, you're not supposed to be eating that whoa food. You're supposed to be eating the carrots of your platter because that's a 'Go food,"' Burt said. "So, it really has become a part of who they are through the musical setting."

In the school's cafeteria, there is a big poster outlining the three different food categories that the students learn about - 'Go foods' like fruits and vegetables are considered the most healthy; 'Slow foods' like yogurt and cheese should be eaten in moderation; and 'Whoa foods' like frosted cupcakes and candy are reserved strictly for special occasions.

To avoid an overabundance of 'Whoa foods,' gym teacher Wendy Starwalt rewards students with prizes if they eat plenty 'Go foods' during lunch. She also said the school has designated days once a month for birthday treats.

"It was hard for parents to understand why their child couldn't bring cupcakes on their birthday, and we had to help our kids understand why that was happening," Starwalt said. "So, now we're three years into that already, and a lot of teachers on the actual birthday have come up with celebrations that don't involve food."

Starwalt came to Carrie Busey a few years ago after teaching at Dr. Howard Elementary School in Champaign. That was the first school in Champaign County to test out the CATCH initiative. But after it ended, the school wasn't been able to sustain it. Starwalt said that is because only a few staff members were trained to teach a curriculum centered on health and wellness, and those teachers - like Starwalt - left the school. To avoid that from happening at Carrie Busey, all employees went through CATCH training.

Second grade teacher Elizabeth Well is in her second year of teaching the CATCH curriculum. A few times each year, she follows a prepared set of instructional course material that is designed for CATCH schools. During a recent classroom discussion, she talked about the importance of fiber.

"Fiber cleans the places in your body where food passes, and fiber is great because it makes the chances of getting some types of cancer go away, "Well said.

Well demonstrated how to make a high-fiber snack.

"Now this is rice and corn flakes," she said as she lift up a plastic bag full of Cheerios. "We know this is high fiber even though it doesn't say in big letters like on Raisin Brand that it's fiber because it is from wheat...and we learned fiber are things that are grown, but doesn't come from an animal."

As the class makes their snacks, a couple of the students demonstrated their knowledge about fiber.

"Well, it cleans your body and it also helps you to get healthier," David Cardaronella said.

"It lowers our chances of getting cancer," Zakyah Billings added.

When the bell rings, the kids head out, taking their bagged snacks. Well said after a year of teaching CATCH courses, she thinks more of her students are aware about what they are eating.

"Honestly, as an adult after teaching this for a year, I'm a little more aware and conscious of what I'm eating and looking at the labels and cereal boxes and things like that," she said. "So, it's even helped me as an adult."

After school is over, about 40 kids pack into the music room. Music teacher, Mariah Burt welcomes the group to the first day of Dance Club.

"Now you are all part of a healthy team and a healthy family that's going to help each other feel good about what we're doing and make sure that you help other people follow those directions," Burt said.

After going over the rules of Dance Club, Burt leads the class in some movements: "Five...six...seven...eight...stomp, stomp, clap, clap....one...two...three...four."

Out in the hallway right outside of the music room, a group of parents watch as 11-year-old Grace Rispoli teaches her peers the dance moves, mimicking what their teacher was just doing.

"Stomp, clap, clap, stomp, clap," Rispoli said. "Now, remember the thing is that even I forget the second stop. We have to remember that otherwise it won't look the same, and we can't clap first. We have to stomp first."

Nikiki Hillier, who is a program coordinator Program in the Division of Wellness and Health Promotion at the Champaign Urbana Public Health District, monitors the CATCH initiative in Champaign County. So far, five elementary schools in her area have taken part in CATCH: Carrie Busey, Dr. Howard, Unity West, Thomasboro, and Fisher.

While Hillier said the work to educate kids about nutrition may start at the schools, it shouldn't end there.

"You don't want to undermine everything that you've done all day at school by sending them home, and they're having fried foods and pop for dinner," Hillier said. "So, it's very important that the parents are on their journey with us."

After all, once these kids grow up, it will be up to them to teach the next generation about what it means to make healthy choices, one step at a time.

Related Links:

More about the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH) Chart of 'Go' 'Slow' and 'Whoa' Foods Unit 4 Tries to Stay Ahead of Nutrition Standards (Related)

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Categories: Community, Education, Health, Music

AP - Illinois Public Media News - April 04, 2012

Carle Hospital, Four Others, Pull Application for Tax Exemption

Five Illinois hospitals, including Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, have withdrawn their applications for tax exemptions, leaving it up to county governments whether to assess taxes on the properties.

Illinois Department of Revenue spokeswoman Susan Hofer says hospitals in Murphysboro, Moline, Monmouth and Hillsboro have also withdrawn applications in the past week. That clears county authorities to evaluate the properties and collect taxes.

The development comes as Illinois leaders grapple with a 2010 Illinois Supreme Court ruling. The court found that one hospital wasn't doing enough charity care to qualify for an exemption. That ruling called into question other hospitals' tax exemptions.

Gov. Pat Quinn authorized more rulings on hospital tax exemptions earlier this month when efforts to find a legislative compromise failed.

The revenue department is continuing to review pending applications from other hospitals.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 04, 2012

US Rep. Shimkus Talks about Health Care, Energy

Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) is running for re-election in the re-drawn 15th Congressional District, which includes parts of Champaign County, and all of Vermilion, Douglas, Edgar, Coles and Moultrie Counties.

Last week, Shimkus sat in on the U.S. Supreme Court's final day of hearings about the federal health care law. He told Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers that there are parts of the law he supports, but he said requiring people to purchase health insurance or pay a penalty goes a step too far.

He also discussed a bill he has introduced that would protect retailers, engine manufacturers, and fuel producers from lawsuits related to E15, a new fuel combination that is made up of 15-percent ethanol. And Shimkus looks ahead to the November general election.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 04, 2012

County Health Rankings Show Mixed Results for E. Central Illinois

Newly-released health rankings offer a mixed bag for east central Illinois counties.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, in conjunction with the University of Wisconsin, has released County Health Rankings for the state of Illinois, which rank the 102 Illinois counties according to a variety of health factors and outcomes.

Champaign County ranked relatively high on the list, at 26th in the state; but Vermilion County fared much lower, at 95th.

Vermilion County Health Department Public Health Administrator Shirley Hicks suggests leaders and the public should use the information in the rankings to "build a healthier community."

Douglas County received the 7th highest ranking in the state, by far the best among East Central Illinois counties.

A wide range of measurements determine the rankings - they include access to medical care, graduation rates, unemployment, crime rates, air quality, and access to healthy foods, among many other factors.

This is the third year these rankings have been released.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - April 02, 2012

Unit 4 Tries to Stay Ahead of Nutrition Standards

The U.S. Department of Agriculture this year unveiled new nutrition standards for school meals. It's the first major nutritional overhaul of its kind in more than 15 years. As part of our series on efforts in the region to increase health and wellness, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports on how the Champaign School District is trying to stay ahead of new federal regulations taking affect this year and beyond.

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Categories: Education, Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 29, 2012

Danville Hospital Seeks To Acquire Outpatient Center

If state regulators approve, the Danville HealthCare outpatient surgery center will become a unit of Provena United Samaritans Medical Center.

The Danville hospital has applied to acquire the facility, and hospital officials expect the state Health and Facilities Planning Board to hear their case in June.

United Samaritans spokeswoman Gretchen Wesner said having a freestanding outpatient facility will give them more flexibility in treating patients.

"It's often less expansive for a patient to have a procedure at a freestanding center rather than at a hospital," Wedner said. "Their co-pay may be lower if it's a procedure that can be done outside the hospital."

In addition, Wesner said the acquisition would put Danville HealthCare under the hospital's charity care guidelines --- allowing some of the clinic's patents to receive care without charge.

For physicians, Wesner said access to a free-standing outpatient facility will make coming to United Samaritans more attractive.

"Because doctors often like performing procedures in there," Wesner said. "They can be efficient with the way they schedule. We also can bring in specialists that can come and do procedures at a surgery center, without being on our medical staff."

Danville Healthcare is one of three freestanding outpatient surgery centers in the Danville area. In addition, Provena United Samaritans operates an Ambulatory Care Unit at the hospital. Wesner said that facility will continue.

Categories: Health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 28, 2012

Business Group Argues Against Healthcare Law

The National Federation of Independent Business was one of the plaintiffs arguing against the healthcare law before the U.S. Supreme Court. Kim Maisch is the Illinois director of the organization. Mishe said her group wants healthcare reform, but they don't think it's necessary to require everyone to buy health insurance.

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Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 27, 2012

Health Care Advocacy Group: Federal Health Care Law Helping People

Claudia Lennhoff is the executive director of Champaign County Health Care Consumers.

As arguments over the constitutionality of the federal health care law continue at the Supreme Court, one local supporter of the law is pointing out its benefits. The group Champaign County Health Care Consumers said even though the law has not been fully implemented, it's already helping the people they serve. Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows spoke with Health Care Consumers executive director Claudia Lennhoff. She had supported a single payer healthcare system, but Lennhoff said the law now in place goes a long way towards improving healthcare coverage in America.

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WILL - Illinois Public Media News - March 26, 2012

US Supreme Court Hears Arguments on Health Care Law

While the Supreme Court hears arguments on the federal health care law this week, one of its local supporters argues that the law is already providing benefits.

Full implementation of the Affordable Care Act is still two years away. But Claudia Lennoff of Champaign County Healthcare Consumers said some benefits are helping people now.

She said that thanks to the law, her organization no longer hears stories from people whose health insurance has been rescinded due to a particular health event, like a newly diagnosed disease.

"One lady, who I remember, who had just gotten diagnosed with cancer tumors in her brain; and all of a sudden, when she was just about to start receiving treatment, she was noticed that her health plan, and she would not be covered for that. And then was scrambling to get health insurance," Lennoff said. "So we don't see those kind of cases any more, thank goodness. "

In addition to providing help to those already insured, Lennoff said the federal health care law is also bringing more uninsured people to her office. She said people who were barred from coverage due to the cost or a pre-existing condition now have new opportunities for coverage.

Lennoff said she's optimistic that the benefits of the federal health care law will survive a challenge before the Supreme Court --- even if the "individual mandate" requiring all Americans to buy health insurance is struck down.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - March 22, 2012

Study: Race Gap in Breast Cancer Deaths in Many Cities

African-American women with breast cancer in Chicago are more likely to die of their disease than white women.

Now a new study by Chicago researchers finds that the disparity is a widespread problem in major cities. A team from the Sinai Urban Health Institute calculated the race gap in breast cancer mortality for the nation's 25 biggest cities, and found that more than half of them have a significant disparity.

"In the United States the number of deaths that occur each year because of the disparity, not because of [just] breast cancer, is 1,700," said Steven Whitman, director of the Institute. "That's about five a day."

Chicago was among the worst cities, with black women in the city 61 percent more likely to die than white women. Memphis had the largest disparity, and three other cities fared worse than Chicago: Denver, Houston and Los Angeles. All of the data are based on the years 2005-2007.

The study authors have connections with the Metropolitan Breast Cancer Task Force, whose research indicates that societal factors - "racism," as Whitman bluntly put it - are mainly responsible for the disparity. Task force members say unequal access to screening mammograms is largely to blame, and point out that Illinois' program providing screening to low-income women is nearly broke. Other public health researchers note that genetics likely plays a significant role in the race gap as well.

The study was funded by the Avon Foundation and published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology.

Categories: Health, Race/Ethnicity, Science

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