Winger's Weekly Wrap-up

Children – Lead Poisoning
Cabinet on Children and Youth leads initiative against lead poisoning. Illinois' Cabinet on Children and Youth recently announced a statewide, cross-agency initiative to reduce children’s exposure to lead. Lead poisoning is one of the most prevalent, preventable, environmental health hazards and is known to contribute to learning disabilities, developmental delays, and violent behavior.

“There is no safe level of lead in the body. Children exposed to high lead levels tend to suffer from life-long complications that affect their ability to think, learn, or behave,” said Illinois Department of Public Health Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D. “Reducing blood lead levels among all Illinois children six years of age or younger would reduce crime and increase on-time high school graduation rates later in life.”

Compared to other states, Illinois remains among the highest for percentage of children with elevated blood lead levels. Out of approximately 270,000 Illinois children tested in 2014, more than 18,000 had blood lead levels at the federal public health intervention level.

As one focus of the Governor’s Children’s Cabinet, lead exposure has an impact on all of the other Cabinet subgroups. Reducing lead exposure and decreasing the level at which children are eligible for public health services would have a positive impact on educational achievement. There are opportunities to connect home visiting programs and other social service initiatives with expanded lead-related activities, creating more robust services and a more integrated social service delivery system.

Deteriorating lead-based paint remains the primary source of lead exposure to children. Approximately 66 percent of Illinois housing units were built prior to the residential lead paint ban of 1978.

The primary goals of the Illinois Lead Program include lead poisoning prevention through community education and public awareness campaigns, identifying lead-poisoned children, and providing prompt interventions to reduce blood lead levels and improve health and developmental outcomes.

For more information about lead poisoning prevention, visit the IDPH website.

Education – High-Tech Training
Illinois Manufacturing Association (IMA) chief expresses support for Illinois schools. With Illinois manufacturing in transition from an assembly-line model to a ‘smart manufacturing’ model, IMA president Greg Baise spoke out this week in support of Illinois schools as places to train high-tech workers.

Even as production processes become more automated, Illinois factories will continue to need increasing numbers of manufacturing engineers and production technicians. The IMA’s figures project annual Illinois personnel retirement rates of 30,000 men and women with these qualifications, who must be replaced. Baise warns prospective manufacturing workers that more and more of them will be expected to understand and oversee the work being done by computer-programmed machines. High schools and community colleges will be asked to work with local employers to generate workers with science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) certifications.

Health Care – ACA Premium Hikes
New data confirms sharp price hikes in ACA health insurance premiums in Illinois. A limited number of health insurance providers are allowed to sell policies on the Illinois Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange, “Get Covered Illinois.” The complex mandates placed on insurance providers by current federal law have helped lead to a situation where only a few firms’ offerings are judged adequate to meet the standards required to be classified as an ACA-compliant healthcare plan. These mandates are especially strict upon policies classified as “Silver” or “Gold” plans.

Many families find that they have to buy a “Silver” or “Gold” plan in order to meet the healthcare needs of their families. However, the prices posted for 2017 ACA Illinois healthcare coverage, particularly “Silver” plans, have shot up significantly from the prices charged in 2016. New summaries provide statistical evidence of the price hikes already being seen by Illinois consumers, and display the weight of the challenge facing affected Illinoisans – especially young families – as they try to navigate the increasingly unfriendly waters of the Affordable Care Act.

These challenges are not confined to Illinois. New data released from Washington indicates that the cost of health insurance purchased under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act has shot up by 22% for calendar year 2017.

Higher Education – University of Illinois
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will create Illinois Athletic Hall of Fame. The organized celebration of UIUC’s athletic heritage will hold its first induction ceremony on the weekend of September 29-30, 2017, to mark the football team’s Big Ten opener. The inaugural member of the UIUC Illinois Athletic Hall of Fame, announced on Thursday, October 27, will be famed linebacker Dick Butkus. Other members of the inaugural Hall of Fame class are expected to be announced in February 2017.

Dick Butkus, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the College Football Hall of Fame, is renowned as the foremost linebacker of his generation. He played for the Fighting Illini in the seasons of 1962, 1963, and 1964. In his final years he was short-listed for the Heisman Trophy; his third-place finish in the 1964 Heisman balloting was one of the highest honors ever granted by college football to a defensive lineman. A native Chicagoan, Butkus went on to play for nine seasons for George Halas’s Chicago Bears. The Fighting Illini have previously honored Butkus by retiring his uniform number 50. The size of college football teams means that it is a serious matter to retire a number, and the U of I squad has retired only two numbers over a period of more than 100 years. Butkus shares this honor with the late Harold “Red” Grange, the legendary 1920s running back.

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