Equal Voice believes the best way to ensure our voices are heard is through visibility and community led initiatives.
Using knowledge from Equal Care’s work to understand problems in our healthcare system, along with the lived experience of our clients, Equal Voice develops public policy and advocacy efforts designed to create long lasting system change. A lot of our work is focused on Illinois Medicaid and other public programs such as the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer program. These programs serve community members with less resources. Together, with our partners and “fierce ladies in pink,” we have successfully advocated for a variety of legislation intended to promote health equity.
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The Task Force requested $15 million in state GRF to support the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP). Unlike many other cancers, cervical cancer can be almost completely prevented by vaccination (HPV) and high quality screening. Breast cancer, when found early, has an almost 100% survival rate. Additional funds can ensure that this program is accessible to everyone that needs it.
While our efforts this year were highly successful and the General Assembly appropriated $14.1 million in state general funds, we need to ensure that our State Government spends this money. Under a prior administration, the State frequently did not spend this money as the General Assembly intended. This short changes women who need access to these services.
We call on the Illinois Governor and the Illinois Department of Public Health:
- To use all the funds appropriated;
- Expand the number of lead agencies and expand the number of Breast Imaging Center of Excellence that are available to women served by this program;
- Expand funding to other organizations reaching hard-to-reach communities. These organizations can navigate to the various Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer lead agencies;
- Start a vigorous media campaign to let the public know that this program exists.
Due to multi-year funding challenges and the prior administration not spending money appropriated, this program has been effectively closed for many women.
The Breast Cancer Excellence in Survival and Treatment (BEST) Act was passed in 2015 by Governor Rauner but his Administration never implemented it thus thwarting the will of the General Assembly and shortchanging women all over the state.
The statewide mammography quality program was in operation up until February 2016 but the Rauner Administration halted it even though it is required by state law. Research from the University of Illinois shows that poor women and publicly insured women are far more likely to have their cancers missed due to poor quality mammograms. Equal Hope has shown wide variation in the quality of mammography. This program was addressing this injustice and was working. Those who participated multiple years in a row showed significant improvement in their ability to meet quality benchmarks.
Researchers currently face overwhelming obstacles while attempting to access cancer registry data in Illinois. Effects of these access barriers stifle the progress of cutting-edge research and the flow of research dollars into the state.