Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=215951
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Women smoking in pregnancy drops 50% in Chicago

by Mattie Quinn
Feb 14, 2013


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Mattie Quinn/MEDILL

Highlights from Secretary Sebelius's address regarding the Affordable Care Act


In the past 16 months, Chicago has seen 50 percent drop in women smoking while pregnant, the steepest decline in the nation.

This is one of many accomplishments of “Healthy Chicago,” and offshoot of the Affordable Care Act.

The achievements, which also include expanded screening of teenagers for sexually transmitted infections, are listed in an update report unveiled Thursday at the Cultural Center.

One of the biggest strides was legalized produce stands and five new farmers markets on the West Side, an area often considered a food desert, said Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair.

“We have to create an environment where more people have access to fresh fruit and veggies,” he said.

While there was much progress, the initiative did see some setbacks. The “healthy homes” program that aimed to reduce lead poisoning in homes was stymied by a dramatic cut in funding on a national level, from $29 million to $2 million.

“Healthy Chicago” was started in August 2011. The goal, according to Choucair, was simple. “Make Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.”

The initiative focused on a dozen areas that include tobacco use, obesity prevention and adolescent health. Ninety-two percent of its nearly 200 strategies have been either initiated or completed, according to the report.

Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Health and Human Services secretary and former governor of Kansas, was on hand to talk about the impending implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“Never, before President Obama, have we had a national strategy on how a domestic health-care program should look,” said Sebelius.

While “Obamacare” became a loaded term leading up to the 2012 election, it has its roots in Chicago dating back to Obama’s senatorial days.

“Michelle [Obama] and I worked collaboratively to try to make the South Side the healthiest urban area in the nation. We worked to get people out of the ER and connect them with a community health center,” said Eric Whitaker, former public health commissioner and a close personal friend of the Obamas.

“That was the first time the term ‘Obamacare’ was used and we became regular staples on Fox News, let me tell you,” Whitaker said.

On the subject of the Affordable Care Act, Secretary Sebelius talked about the importance of what the ACA will mean for Americans.

“Starting Oct. 1, insurance companies all over the nation will operate on a whole new set of rules. No one ever again in America will be locked out of the market because of a pre-existing condition,” Sebelius said.