All posts by taliabeechick

Chicago STI rates double and triple national averages

By Talia Beechick and Madison Hopkins

Diverse sexual trends called “sexual sorting” may be driving Chicago’s young adults to some of the highest sexually transmitted infection rates in the country.

Chicagoans are twice as likely to have chlamydia and nearly three times more likely to have gonorrhea than residents of other areas in the U.S., according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The most recent data available shows that the 2014 rate of reported cases of chlamydia in Chicago was about 1,012 per 100,000 residents, more than two times the national incidence. For gonorrhea, the Chicago rate was about 308 per 100,000 people, almost three times the U.S. rate. Continue reading

Overprescribed and underfunded: Illinois’ surge in overdose deaths

By Jack Adams, Talia Beechick and Madison Hopkins

Chris Nielsen’s future looked bright. A senior in high school, he played catcher on his school’s baseball team in a Chicago suburb and was offered a full scholarship to play the sport at Michigan State University. But at age 17, after his first knee surgery, he was prescribed Percocet and Dulotin to help ease post-surgery pain.

Nielsen grew up around drugs. Both of his parents were addicted to heroin, and his father died from an overdose when Nielsen was just a few years old, he said. His uncles also used, and drugs and addicts became common fixtures in Nielsen’s childhood.

“I was physically and sexually abused when I was a kid,” he said. He went to live with his grandmother where he kept his distance from drugs until his knee surgery.

“I don’t care what anybody says, it’s freaking genetic,” Nielsen said, sitting on a couch at a Gateway Treatment Center in Chicago. “I have no kids, but I’m glad I don’t, because I ended that cycle in my family.” Continue reading

Hospitalization due to diabetes on the rise on South and West sides

By Talia Beechick

Hospitalization due to diabetes is on the rise on Chicago’s South and West sides, according to newly released data from the Chicago Public Health Department.

Altgeld Gardens and Hegewisch saw the highest increase, with only 20 hospitalizations due to diabetes in 2000, and 139 by 2011, according to the data, the most recent available. Other neighborhoods that had a substantial rise over that same period include Calumet Park, with a 47 percent increase, East Chicago, with a 34 percent increase, and neighborhoods in the 60629 zip code, including Chicago Lawn and Gage Park, which saw a 30 percent increase.

Certain neighborhoods, however, noticed a similarly dramatic decrease in diabetes hospitalization rates in the same period, such as Bucktown, Lakeview, and South Loop, where rates fell by 51.5 percent, 40 percent and 39.8 percent, respectively. Continue reading

Women warriors have special health needs, researchers report

Women veterans are more at risk for lower life satisfaction, lung cancer, cognitive decline and hip fractures than non-veteran women, the Women’s Health Initiative reported in a new study.

The initiative published  the study in the current issue of The Gerontologist just two months after the Obama administration announced all military roles will be open to women by April 1..

“We know the roles women are allowed to fulfill are expanding, including active combat,” said Gayle Reiber, one of the study’s researchers and a professor of health services and epidemiology at the University of Washington in Seattle. “We need to learn more to preserve and protect the health of women veterans.” Continue reading

Painting a picture: Art can help people cope with Parkinson’s , Alzheimer’s

By Talia Beechick

When Renee Le Verrier saw her first-grade son Pedro paint for the first time 10 years ago,  she decided to give it a try, despite recently having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“I watched him fill the page, no concern for whether it ‘looked right,’ but with abandon to the process – the colors, the swoosh across the paper,”  she said. “I pulled a pear from the fruit bowl and dipped a scraggly brush into his paints. I mixed colors, layered, adjusted the lights. I haven’t stopped painting since.”

Verrier, of the Seattle area, was 43 when she received her diagnosis. She was a book editor who enjoyed writing, sewing, knitting and quilting. It wasn’t until Pedro was in first grade that she felt inspired to pick up a paintbrush. She is one of many for whom art has been a healing force in the midst of a neurodegenerative disease, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

Chicago’s soda tax debate bubbles over

By Talia Beechick

Sweetened beverage sales decreased in Mexico by 12 percent after the country added an extra tax for the products, reigniting the debate in Chicago on the proposed “soda tax” before the City Council.

Mexico’s tax on sugar-sweetened drinks also spurred increased sales of untaxed beverages such as bottled water, according to a study released earlier this month conducted by researchers in Mexico and the U.S. Continue reading