Illinois Public Media News

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Questions Loom Over PersonalCare Contract Termination

The news Tuesday that PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic leaves some unanswered questions for people who rely on PersonalCare for service.

Claudia Lennhoff heads the group, Champaign County Health Consumers. Lennhoff said her organization just renewed its employer group plan with PersonalCare.

"I don't know what kind of coverage PersonalCare will actually be offering us, so that we can access physician services," Lennhoff said. "So, It's a very distressing situation, and certainly if we had known that this was something that might happen, I really probably would not have renewed with PersonalCare.

In a statement, Christie Clinic said it will work with employers and their brokers who contract with PersonalCare to discuss their options.

Meanwhile, the University of Illinois said it is reviewing what the contract termination means for U of I employees and their dependents who are enrolled in the PersonalCare health plans, and if any decisions need to be made during the upcoming Special Healthcare Enrollment Period.

A request for comment from PersonalCare was not returned.

Categories: Education, Health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 28, 2011

Brain Scan Could Study Alzheimer’s Disease

MRI brain scans are commonly used to detect brain tumors or concussions in athletes. Now a similar scan is being tested to study Alzheimer's Disease.

An MRI shows the structure of the brain -- what it looks like. Whereas an fMRI is used to show how the brain functions. It can tell which areas of the brain are more active when you are at ease.

Researchers think the fMRI can be used to detect changes in this resting state which can indicate brain disorders such as depression, autism, and Alzheimer's.

"Before I have the symptoms, I could have an fMRI test," said Dr. Tom Ala, interim director for the Center for Alzheimer's Disease at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. "The fMRI test could say 'you are cool no problem', I'm not as worried. If the fMri test says the arrow is pointing in that direction because of this test, this biomarker, I could start treatment."

Patients cannot use this technology for Alzheimer's yet because it is still in the testing phase.

(Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Categories: Health, Science, Technology

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 27, 2011

PersonalCare Terminates Contract with Christie Clinic

PersonalCare is terminating its contract with Christie Clinic, effective January 1st.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the clinic announced the health insurance contractor's plans.

The end of the contract will impact state workers and retirees, and those connected to other PersonalCare plans.

People in Champaign County who want to have uninterrupted access to Christie Clinic physicians are being urged to switch to Health Alliance HMO coverage or Health Link's Open Access Plans in the next enrollment period.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 27, 2011

Food Insecurity Focus at Hunger Symposium

At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage.

People talking at the Hunger Symposium

Two million people in Illinois deal with food insecurity, and in eastern Illinois that number is about 80,000, according to a study released by the group, Feeding America. It's a problem that's being addressed through programs like the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Local food pantries are also working hard to feed people who need food assistance. At the 5th annual Hunger Symposium on Sept. 26, 2011 in Champaign, food insecurity took front stage. The event was put on by the Eastern Illinois Food Bank and the Family Resiliency Center. Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert talks with Sean Powers, who attended the meeting.

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AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 23, 2011

VA Health Center in Danville Alerts Vets About Privacy Breach

A veterans health center in Danville has alerted more than 500 veterans of a breach involving their personal information that puts them at risk for identity theft.

The Commercial News in Danville reports an appointment book from the VA Illiana Health Care System has been missing since July 14.

The appointment book included veterans' last names and last four digits of their Social Security numbers.

Illiana director Michael Hamilton says there's no reason to believe the information has been misused or stolen. He says the VA is alerting veterans so they can take precautions against identity theft.

Precautions include requesting a free credit report and placing a "fraud alert'' on credit accounts.

Hamilton says VA staff members are reviewing policies and procedures in hopes of preventing future breaches.

Categories: Criminal Justice, Health
Tags: crime, health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2011

Cook County Man Dies from West Nile Virus

Illinois health officials say a Cook County man has become the first person this year to die after contracting the West Nile virus.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said Tuesday that the man was in his 60s and had underlying health conditions. He was diagnosed with the virus in August and died earlier this month.

Officials say eight human cases of West Nile virus have been reported in Illinois this summer. The first two were reported Aug. 19 - involving a Cook County man in his 80s and a Franklin County man in his 30s.

The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes that pick up the virus after feeding on infected birds.

Symptoms include fever, nausea, headache and muscle aches - though most people will show no symptoms at all.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 20, 2011

Latinos Make Up Largest Minority Group in Illinois

U.S. Census figures show Hispanics are now Illinois' largest minority group, outnumbering African Americans. But not all communities are welcoming the trend, according to a professor a the University of Illinois.

Hispanics now make up nearly 16 percent of the state's population, an increase of nearly 500,000 people from a decade ago. The shift in demographics has put an emphasis on immigration issues such as housing and educational opportunities for Latinos and Latinas.

Jorge Chapa teaches Government and Public Affairs at the U of I, and he also co-authored the book "Apple Pie and Enchiladas: Latino Newcomers in the Rural Midwest."

"They are growing much more quickly than the capacity and the knowledge and how to serve them," Chapa said.

Chapa said very few Hispanics serve on local school boards or in other administrative roles. He said there are also communication barriers in medical care and schools. In addition to growth in Chicago and the collar counties, Illinois' Cass County has seen an influx in Latinos since the last census.


WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 19, 2011

Champaign County to Discuss Publicizing Restaurant Inspections

Champaign County to Discuss Publicizing Restaurant Inspections

A Champaign County Board member says he will push for a new rule requiring restaurants in the county to post their health inspection scores.

Categories: Government, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - September 16, 2011

Health Officials Probe Illness Tied to Cantaloupe

State and local health officials are investigating an outbreak of a serious infection caused by eating a kind of cantaloupe grown in Colorado that was shipped to Illinois and 16 other states.

The Illinois Department of Health says at least 20 people across the U.S. have become ill after eating cantaloupes contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, two of whom have died.

There have been reports of possible Listeria cases in Illinois, including some in Cook County, but the health department says none of those have been confirmed.

The confirmed cases have been linked to what are called Rocky Ford cantaloupes shipped by Jensen Farms in Colorado.

The health department is working with the Centers of Disease Control, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and local health departments in Illinois.

Categories: Health
Tags: health

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - September 12, 2011

Eatery Inspection Reports Are Tough to Get

Listen at 10:06 am on Tuesday to WILL-AM 580's "Focus" for a call-in program with area health officials.

About one in 10 restaurants in Champaign County failed a health inspection from April 2007 through April 2011, according to a review of inspection records by CU-CitizenAccess.org.

But customers have no easy way of knowing just how sanitary the places at which they eat really are.

Take, for example, Geovanti's Bar & Grill, which failed public health inspections five times from September 2008 through February of this year.

But no one who eats there would ever know, unless they requested copies of the Campustown restaurant's inspection reports from the local public health district.

That's because - unlike many other counties and cities in central Illinois and across the country - the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District currently doesn't publicize the results of its restaurant inspections in any form. Not online, not on placards at restaurants and not in local newspapers.

This means the public has no way way of knowing about health-code violations, such as the live and dead cockroaches found during a November 2009 inspection at Geovanti's.

Owner Anthony Donato said the restaurant works closely with the district to make sure it meets health codes. Geovanti's recently had a voluntary health inspection and passed with flying colors, he said.

Julie Pryde, the district's public health administrator, said the fact that a restaurant is open for business shows eating there is safe.

"If you go into a restaurant and it's open, we've been in there, and they've passed," Pryde said. "And there are times where you'll go to a restaurant, and it will not be open. It may not say, 'Closed by the health department' on the front door, but if it's not open, that's because there's an immediate health risk."

Pryde and other public health officials have long said they want to make information about inspections of the county's more than 1,000 eating establishments more available to the public. They believe providing diners with access to complete restaurant inspection reports will give them the information they need to make the best decisions for their health.

But, after years of talk, they still have not done so.

Since getting new software to manage inspection reports in 2007, they have spoken about plans for a website that would allow consumers to look up the records online.

In 2008, environmental health director Jim Roberts said he hoped to have the site up the following year.

This spring, he said they were shooting for September. In late August, he revised the time line once again.

"I would hope by January 2012," Roberts said.

He said there are several reasons for the delays.

"First, we had to make sure the system was working as we wanted it to," Roberts said. "The second thing is that I don't have a project manager to do this, so I do this as time permits me to do so."

Meanwhile, since 2003, neighboring Vermilion County has taken the low-tech route of requiring restaurant owners to post letter grades from their most recent inspections in their establishments alongside their health permits.

Douglas Toole is the environmental health director in Vermilion County.

"It's a lot about informing the public," Toole said. "When they go into a restaurant, the public can see the dining area, certainly, and they can see what the restrooms look like and they can see, depending on the place, a small amount of the food-preparation or food-storage area. But a lot of it takes place behind the scenes."

While Vermilion County officials see this as a way of providing the public with information they're entitled to see under the state's Freedom of Information Act, Champaign-Urbana's Julie Pryde see the letter grades differently.

"It's completely worthless," Pryde said.

She said when people see a letter grade, they don't bother to find out what went into earning that grade.

"If you only are looking at one thing, A, I think it will give people a false sense of security, and, B, it might negatively impact a restaurant's business when there's no point in it," Pryde said."Give them all the information or no information at all."

Illinois law doesn't require health departments to publish inspection results online or in hardcopy. But Vermillion isn't the only area county the takes the initiative to make its scores public.

McLean, Macon and Sangamon counties all post inspections scores on their websites.

Manny Martinez is executive chef of Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works, which has locations in Champaign and Normal. Inspection scores for the Normal restaurant are posted on the McLean County Health Department website.

The scores can be deceiving because they don't tell customers whether a restaurant lost points for major violations or for several minor violations that might have little to do with sanitation, Martinez said.

But overall, he doesn't mind the information being available to the public.

"For a restaurant, it doesn't really matter to us, as long as we know we're doing a good job, and we get inspected and we're doing a great job," he said.

How to Obtain a Restaurant Inspection Report

The public can obtain copies inspection reports for specific restaurants by calling the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District's Environmental Health Division at (217) 373-7900, emailing eh@c-uphd.org or visiting the district's offices at 201 W. Kenyon Road, Champaign.

Depending on the number of reports being sought, you may be asked to file a Freedom of Information request with one of the district's Freedom of Information officers:

Patricia Robison

Freedom of Information Officer

Address: 201 W. Kenyon Road

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: (217) 531-4257

Fax: (217) 531-4343

Email: probinson@c-uphd.org

Tammy Hamilton

Deputy Freedom of Information Officer

Address: 201 W. Kenyon Road

Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: (217) 531-2905

Fax: (217) 373-7905

Email: thamilton@c-uphd.org

Linda Smith

Deputy Freedom of Information Officer

Address: 201 W. Kenyon Road Champaign, IL 61820

Phone: (217) 531-4265

Fax: (217) 531-4343

Email: lsmith@c-uphd.org

Categories: Business, Health

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