An investigation by The Chicago Reporter shows that Taste of Chicago vendors have discarded more food in the last few years, even as vendor participation dropped last year.Food inspectors say they are "on guard" at the festival, but they don't hand out violations, as they might at a brick-and-mortar restaurant. Rather, they say, they're in a consultant role.
In 2008, the last year for which data were available, more than a ton of food was thrown out, mostly due to temperature violations. That amount was a four percent increase from the prior year and 27 percent increase since 2006, according to Chicago Department of Public Health documents obtained by the Reporter.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A Rush spokesman told the Daily News that a few conversations have taken place between the university, and Rush's office has learned a bit more about the issue. However, she did not elaborate.
As it stands, it doesn't appear that Rush's request is making much headway at this point. A committee spokesperson did not return calls for comment.
The city planned to close four mental health centers until these revelations. At one point in April, the city had billed only one percent of its expected billing levels, according the Illinois Department of Human Services.
A DHS spokesman told me that the city has fixed its billing issues. There's no word yet whether the mental health budget for 2010 will be affected by the past year's billing. However, DHS spokesman Tom Green says the state's budget crisis will affect the city's mental health budget to some degree.
Monday, June 29, 2009
And, as I seek to add at least one local voice to a story, I'm striking out more than Milton Bradley.
See, most of the agencies I've called today have funky phone systems that tell you to do one thing, then do another. They zig when I need to zag. When I'm prompted to enter someone's last name, say Joe Smith, I generally expect to be connected with Joe Smith. Not Monique Gomez. Not with Arthur Martin. Joe Smith.
But, thanks to the miracle of dysfunctional phone systems, I'm apparently destined to be bumped from one voicemail to another.
It's entirely frustrating.
So if you happen to be the proprietor of a business, for the sake of this reporter and anybody else who may need to contact, I beg of you, update your phone system. Troubleshoot it and make sure it works.
And, Joe Smith, I'd really like to talk with you.
By focusing on the wellness side of health care -- rather than policy issues, such as whether there will be a government-sponsored "public option" insurance plan in the legislative package, a major item the Obama administration supports -- she avoids any comparison with former First Lady Hillary Clinton, who took on systemic delivery of health care as a signature issue.Mrs. Obama is making a series of speeches about wellness, prevention and childhood obesity. Sweet says a good chunk of her speeches' themes will focus on the need for more community health centers, a linchpin of UCMC's controversial Urban Health Initiative, championed by the First Lady.
She will not address Congress on the health care issue, perhaps avoiding the pitfalls suffered by Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she was first lady.
Sweet, by the way, is a really fun read, both on FLOTUS and her Sun-Times blog. She's also got a heckuva a fastball.
- A new research building opened earlier this month. The Gwen and Jules Knapp Center for Biomedical Discovery will house research programs in diabetes, pediatrics, genomics, cancer and other medical specialties. Here's some info on the architecture:
There's a cool time-lapse video of construction HERE.
"Designed by the award-winning Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects, the stunning $244 million building provides open, efficient, and flexible laboratory and office space designed to encourage cross-fertilization between labs. It features few walls, most of which can be changed easily, depending on research needs. The building also includes conference and lecture halls and several multi-story public and common spaces--all designed to enhance the exchange of ideas among the 80 scientific investigators and 800 personnel who will work there.
The building has an emergency power system to protect valuable research equipment, extra heavy duty air conditioning, and wireless technology throughout.
The exterior design combines a limestone base, reflecting the campus heritage, with the open, transparent feel provided by 130,000 square feet of glass-curtain walls higher up. The innovative design of the serrated west wall gives each office a view north toward downtown Chicago, as well as west over Washington Park.
Minority and woman-owned firms and workers achieved $35.7 million in economic benefit through contracts awarded and wages earned on this project."
- The university's Comer Children's Hospital was named one of the nation's best by U.S. News & World Report. It ranked in the top 30 in two pediatric specialites: endocrine and diabetes (#22); and neonatal care, the care of critically ill or very premature newborns (#30).
If you're on Twitter, you can ask questions using this hash tag: #WHHCQ. You can also use Facebook to ask questions.
There's also an online discussion today at 5 EST with Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle. You can access it HERE.
How far can spiraling health care spending go?
If historical trends continue unchecked, health care will account for 99 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product by 2082, the Congressional Budget Office predicts.
It’s unlikely we will ever get to the point where virtually every consumer is a patient and every producer is providing care.
But health care spending has been outpacing overall economic growth by an average of about 2 percentage points for decades. Over time, that adds up to really big numbers.
Health care was responsible for just 4.7 percent of the GDP in 1960. Last year, it was 16.6 percent — $2.4 trillion.
By 2018, when spending is expected to hit $4.4 trillion, health care will account for a little more than a fifth of the economy, the government estimates.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Earlier this month, COO (and former interim CEO) David Small announced he would leave his job by Nov. 30.
Foley said he was looking for a turn-around specialist, "someone who can hit the ground running, which is something I really need on my team."
All signs indicate a candidate has been chosen...we're just waiting for the formal announcement.
While Small made $200,000 as interim CEO, his replacement as COO will make a hefty $425,000 salary for the year he or she is contracted. Foley, by the way, makes $500,000, which CCHHS says is a mid-range salary for his position.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
It's caused him to be lethargic, have coughing fits and difficulty breathing.
But now he's documenting his life, after finally being diagnosed with sarcoidosis in March.
So consider this a shameless plug for a courageous man's blog. Please check it out.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
County health authorities in Los Angeles run seven breast cancer screening facilities.
New York City has 11.
The Cook County hospital system runs two, and owns a pair of mobile mammography vans with rusting bodies and equipment so outdated that officials say it's not worth using.
As a result, advocates say, many women go without screenings. When they do make it to one of Cook County's two facilities, they often find there is a wait time that can run as long as a year.
"What we're finding is that women have significant access barriers to get the required screenings and treatments they need," says Marie Gilliam, executive director of the Chicago Metropolitan Breast Cancer Task Force.
One of the county's facilities is at Provident Hospital. The other is the Jorge Prieto Family Health Clinic, 2424 S. Pulaski.
The county also contracts with Melrose Park's Westlake Hospital to provide screenings.
The lack of publicly funded breast cancer treatment and screening for women may figure prominently in the Cook County Health and Hospital System's effort to hash out a long-term strategic plan."Part of the agenda," says health system chief operating officer David Small, is "how to provide greater access to service. The system board has a real interest in mammogram services in general."
Read the full story at the Chi-Town Daily News.
Dr. Maurice Lemon said Stroger performed poorly on patient satisfaction surveys, though only 16 percent of patients issued the survey responded.
Chief among patients’ concerns were long wait times, bad attitudes among the staff and poor explanations of treatments.
“Patient satisfaction needs to be a higher priority for this staff,” Lemon said. It should be “a credo that drives the quality and care we deliver.”
Lemon listed a number of patient gripes, including that staff members were not receptive to patients' emotional needs, a lenghty discharge process and a lack of information from doctors and nurses.
The quarterly review of Stroger Hospital today also showed the hospital falls short of the national average in number of treatment areas.
Read the full story, originally published June 17 - and published woefully late here - at the Chi-Town Daily News.
With the national debate on health care focusing on broadening insurance options, a panel of experts last night focused on what they say is a far more important issue facing the Chicago area -- racial disparities in access to care.
Language barriers, education and income, and lack of access to treatment affect many minorities in the area, they said.
In Cook County alone, 30 percent of Asians are "language isolated," said Dr. Hong Liu, executive director of the Asian Health Coaliltion of Illinois, meaning they are often unable to understand diagnoses or treatment options.
The county's Asian population also has elevated rates of cancer, liver disease and depression, and has the lowest screening rates of all ethnic groups she said.
The discussion on health and health care disparities focused on the need to provide care for all, but also to promote education at a grassroots level, panelists at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Institute for Policy and Civic Engagement said.
Speaking to concerned citizens, Dr. Terry Mason, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health said the lack of health care to 46 million Americans stifles conversation about reform.
“We have not had a legitimate health care conversation in America yet,” he said.
And no matter what plan rises to the top, Mason said the results are what matters. He discussed his experience working in England, which has national health care; though English patients sometimes had to wait longer for an operation, they were as healthy as Americans, he said.
“The outcomes at the end of the day are the same,” Mason said. “The outcomes are what we need to worry about.”
Of the 448 students in grades 5 to 8, more than 62 percent of the overweight boys and nearly 31 percent of the overweight girls listed their weight as normal or underweight, Dr. Youfa Wang, at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and colleagues found. The participants attended one of four Chicago Public Schools.
Compared with boys and girls not trying to lose weight, those who said they were trying to lose weight were not eating a healthier diet or increasing their physical activities, Wang and colleagues report in BMC Public Health, a journal published by BioMed Central.
Previous studies have shown that one-quarter of Chicago kindergartners were overweight or obese. This Johns Hopkins study found that students weren't eating enough healthy foods (perhaps because nachos are a menu item at CPS schools?)
Forty-three percent of the students they were trying to lose weight. Yet, again Wang's group did not find a greater vegetable and fruit consumption or level of physical activity this group compared with those not trying to lose weight.
"In fact," Wang and colleagues report, "boys who reported trying to lose weight still spent more time watching TV than those who did not."
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
On the $9 million that would be cut from the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program:
"Cutting funds for the IBCCP program would be a step backward for the women of Illinois. The message 'early detection saves lives' has resonated loudly in the past couple of years, due to the statewide Stand Against Cancer program and the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program," says Gloria Dominguez, manager of Women's Health Cancer Community Programs for Access Community Health Network, which serves more than 60,000 uninsured people in Chicagoland.
She continues: "This year alone IBCCP funding has enabled diagnostic testing and treatment for more than 1,800 women with abnormal results. Decreased funding would jeopardize the diagnostic servies necessary to find cancers in underserved women, and this would have detrimental consequences."
Donna Thompson, CEO of Access, says the growing numbers of people losing their jobs mean more people are going without regular checkups, putting a dent in preventative care.
"This is the time that we've got to make sure that we don't cut our preventative services," she says. "To cut a vital program (like IBCCP), where we want to make sure the women of Illinois are healthy...I think shame on all of us."
"We further disintegrate the families of Illinois. (Breast cancer) is such a preventable disease, and when it's caught early, it basically is a lot cheapter to treat than when you're treat it in the late stages. You can either be pennywise, or pound foolish"
Ted Whitmer, development director for a Chicago agency called CARC, which serves those with developmental disabilities, says the political bickering this year is more pronounced than in years past.
"Every year there is jousting and people have their particular special projects, but this year, it's slightly more confrontational because there seems to be a really well-defined line in the sand between the governor and the General Assembly."
He says people are still going to need services if cuts are implemented, but worries those who don't have access will spiral towards homelessness, jail or hospitals, putting a further burden on the state.
"These are folks just living in the community, just wanting the same things you and I want: A place to work, a safe place to live, and they're the ones who are going to pay the price on this."
What do you think about the consequences of doomsday? Is it all political theater? Or are thousands of people in Illinois and Chicago going to pay the price?
Secretary Sebelius Releases New Report: Hidden Costs of Health Care
Out-of-Pocket Expenses for Americans with Employer-Based Coverage Rise to More Than $3,700 per Year
U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today released a new report – Hidden Costs of Health Care: Why Americans are Paying More but Getting Less. The report documents the rising cost of deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket expenses that are making it more difficult for families with insurance to receive the health care they need, and is available at www.HealthReform.gov.
“It doesn’t matter if you have insurance or not: when Americans go to the hospital or the doctor’s office, they are paying more and getting less,” said Sebelius. “Every year, co-pays, deductibles and other expenses are taking a bigger bite out of the family budget and the American people are demanding reform.”
The report notes:
- A person with employer-based coverage paid an average of $1,522 on health care (not including premiums) in 2006, compared with $1,260 in 2001. When including the added burden of higher premiums, out-of-pocket costs rose even more sharply, with a 30 percent increase from an average of $2,827 in 2001 to $3,744 in 2006.
- Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job.
- For preferred provider organization (PPO) plans purchased through an employer, the average family deductible increased 30 percent in just two years, from $1,034 to $1,344. This effect is more pronounced for small firms, where PPO deductibles increased from $1,439 to $2,367 — a rise of 64 percent.
- In 2004, only one in five people with health insurance through an employer had a co-payment of more than $25, but by 2008 the number jumped to one in three.
“Millions of Americans don’t have insurance, and millions more are still struggling to afford the care they need,” added Sebelius. “We need to pass health reform this year to give these families the relief they need.”
Today’s report is one of a series of reports on the health care status quo that are available online at http://www.healthreform.gov/
Friday, June 19, 2009
A single-payer plan would eliminate the need for insurance companies. Protestors rallied for the plan earlier this week as President Barack Obama spoke to the American Medical Association in Chicago.
State Rep. Mary Flowers, D-Chicago, plans to host a public hearing in Carbondale next week that gauges people's interest and support in forming single-payer universal health care for Illinois.
The hearing on House Bill 311, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 25 at the Carbondale Civic Center, is meant for people share with Flowers what they think is wrong with the existing health care system and suggestions on how it might be fixed.
Obama is advocating for a national option, but in 2003, he voiced his support for a single-payer plan.
It's a very cool idea, promoting teamwork (an online community shares ideas and inspiration) and healthy living, all for free. In tough economic times, the Jenny Craigs or Weight Watchers programs seem a little less necessary. And for many people suffering from obesity, one of the problems is the high cost of healthy foods. Programs like this make it easier to live healthier.
Smith and three Chicagoans who have had great success with the program were filming commercials in downtown Chicago this week. On Tuesday, they shot at the Water Tower. On Wednesday, at Millennium Park. And yesterday, they were at Union Station.
The commercials, which will air in July, were hidden camera operations. At Union Station, Marilyn Winters, who lost 117 pounds, was asking for help lifting her bag. Which weight 117 pounds. She then took the opportunity to tell people about her success with the Challenge. She, by the way, is now training for the Chicago Marathon.
I wanted to point out a few things I couldn't include in the story, mostly about Craig Nash, who lost 200 pounds with the 50 Million Pound Challenge program.
Nash weighed 420 pounds two years ago. After being told he needed to buy an extra airplane seat, he got his butt in gear. He sold his car and started walking from his Hyde Park home to work, downtown. That's 60-some blocks.
He rarely takes the elevator to his 12th floor office. He bikes 200-250 miles a week (see him in the photo, showing off his former pants).
Talk about an about face. I left Union Station feeling like I had a lot of work to do. After all, if this rain ever goes away, it's beach season.
The push for electronic medical records is gaining momentum, though some are critical of the movement.
However, we don't live in a paper world anymore (this coming from a former print reporter who now works for an online news site). At his speech to the American Medical Association Monday, President Barack Obama made the case for electronic records:
It simply doesn’t make sense that patients in the 21st century are still filling out forms with pens on papers that have to be stored away somewhere. As Newt Gingrich has rightly pointed out, we do a better job tracking a FedEx package in this country than we do tracking a patient’s health records. You shouldn’t have to tell every new doctor you see about your medical history, or what prescriptions you’re taking. You should not have to repeat costly tests. All of that information should be stored securely in a private medical record so that your information can be tracked from one doctor to another – even if you change jobs, even if you move, and even if you have to see a number of different specialists.In April, Obama announced the creation of electronic military records, to coordinate efforts between the Department of Defense and the VA.
And closer to home, the Cook County Health and Hospital System is raving about its new computer system that is coordinating medical efforts between departments. The large amounts of analysis and better record keeping have doctors ecstatic about electronic records.
It makes sense to do it, I think. I'm constantly amazed when I come across businesses or government agencies that don't use electronic records. It's the equivalent of a cash-only gas station (or using actual quarters to pay for parking. Ha!). Electronic records - in any business - are more efficient, better for the environment and in line with where society is going.
It looks like Chicago is figuring that out.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Although the AMA's 543-member policymaking body stripped the words "public option" from an earlier resolution, doctors endorsed a plan to cover the uninsured by supporting "health system reform alternatives."The AMA continues to reject a call for a single-payer health plan, advocated by some groups, including the Chicago Single-Payer Action Network and Chicago-based Physicians for a National Health Program. It would eliminate health insurance companies.
The AMA's action at its annual meeting in Chicago keeps the door open to one Obama administration idea being discussed in Congress to use so-called insurance exchanges similar to the federal health program used by government workers and members of Congress. Obama addressed the doctors on Monday, seeking their support for his plan.
"People did not want to close the door on alternatives," Dr. Nancy Nielsen, immediate past president of the AMA, said at a press conference this morning. "No doors were closed."
Obama's plan called for a public option - essentially government-funded health care - in addition to giving Americans the option to have private insurance.
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The show airs on channels 23 and 49, and is also on YouTube.
The Sun-Times called "Chicago Works" a Daley "infomercial," back in 1993. But I think everyone can agree on the benefits of eating healthy.
Thursday, June 4, 2009
The university, of course, vehemently denies the allegations. It says people are misunderstanding the goals of its Urban Health Initiative, which seeks to take the burden of the ER, while providing patients with community medical homes.
Rush began looking into the allegations in March, after a Daily News reporter asked his office for comment on a Tribune story alleging patient dumping.
So here, for your review and enjoyment, are the documents from Rush's office, as well as the full response from U of C.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The study found the average cost for a family is $16,700, an increase of 7.4 percent from 2008. In Chicago, the average yearly cost for a family a 13 percent higher than the national average, coming in at $19,008. The cost includes the price of having the insurance, as well as the cost of deductibles and co-pays.
Lorraine Mayne, one of the authors of the study, says the cost of health care, while increasing, has increased at a smaller rate for three straight years, and this year's hike is the lowest she has seen since Seattle-based Milliman began conducting the study five years ago.
"We saw that charges accounted for more of the increase this year than utilization did," she says. "We also saw that employees, as compared to employers, are bearing a large portion of the cost increase, which isn't surprising in the current economic environment."
For more, see the Chi-Town Daily News.