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Reports: Washington state pertussis cases increased tenfold since May 2011

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Budget cuts have added an extra challenge to the response of health authorities in Washington state to an epidemic of whooping cough, according to published reports.

According to a report by the Washington State Department of Health, there were 1,284 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, reported so far for 2012, compared with 128 during the same period last year. No deaths have been reported so far.

The Associated Press reported that the state government had created special fund to contain the outbreak, which officials had declared an epidemic, but budget cuts had made the job more difficult; for example, the Public Health Department of Skagit County, Wash., had half the staff it did in 2008, while preventive care programs had mostly disappeared.

According to the article, while many states require children of school age to receive the pertussis vaccine, Washington state had the highest percentage of parents in the country who opted out, which could be a factor in the current outbreak.


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MinuteClinic joins coalition dedicated to raising diabetes awareness in Chicago’s South Side

BY Antoinette Alexander

CHICAGO — MinuteClinic, which is owned by CVS Caremark, announced on Monday that it has joined a coalition of organizations dedicated to raising diabetes awareness among families on Chicago’s South Side.

The coalition is working with Perspectives Charter School Calumet Campus to educate, screen, diagnose and, if needed, provide follow-up care to any student diagnosed with pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Members of the coalition are MinuteClinic; University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, Chicago Medical Center; Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation; Jay Cutler Foundation; Chicago Diabetes Project; and Access Community Health Network.

"The epidemic of obesity in America affects 17% of all children and adolescents, and more than 215,000 youth under 20 have already been diagnosed with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes," stated Tobias Barker, VP medical operations at MinuteClinic. "Through this program, MinuteClinic and other coalition members can help a group of children on Chicago’s South Side whose diabetes might otherwise go undiagnosed or untreated until serious health complications result."

MinuteClinic walk-in medical clinics are located inside 35 CVS/pharmacy stores in Chicagoland (Illinois and Northwest Indiana).

The idea for the screening program was conceived when the Jay Cutler Foundation and CVS Caremark approached Greater-Auburn Gresham Development about conducting a childhood diabetes awareness campaign. GADC, which works to foster and promote revitalization of low-to-moderate income Chicago neighborhoods, sees the campaign as a natural extension of its ongoing community health fairs, also sponsored by CVS Caremark. This pilot program facilitated by GADC will serve as a model for the Cutler Foundation’s expansion of diabetes testing to other Chicago neighborhoods.

Students diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes will receive a free follow-up visit at Access Community Health Network and also may select to receive care from a University of Illinois Hospital specialist.

Students from other schools in Chicagoland can visit one of Access Community Health Network’s 60 Chicagoland health centers to receive a diabetes screening. Students must meet Access’ enrollment requirements, which include parental consent for most services.


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Walgreens launches retail job training program for people with disabilities

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Monday launched its national Retail Employees with Disabilities Initiative, an in-store training program designed to help people with disabilities gain retail and customer service skills, that works closely with community organizations and vocational rehabilitation agencies to train and develop candidates.

Another similar initiative at Walgreens distribution centers resulted in 10% of the workforce being made up of people with disabilities at all levels across all 20 DCs. The company hopes to see the same success with REDI.

In 2010, the drug store chain piloted the REDI program in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, bringing together Walgreens store managers and job coaches funded by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services to train candidates. After more than 200 trainees and 66% of REDI graduates were recommended for hire, the program grew to more than 150 stores throughout Texas, New York and Connecticut. To date, nearly 400 externs have completed training, and more than 46% have been employed by Walgreens or other retailers.

“We are committed to helping customers live well, stay well and get well, and to do that you need team members who are dedicated to excellent customer service,” stated Mark Wagner, Walgreens president of operations and community management. “This program highlights ability and gives candidates the tools to be successful in any retail setting. This is a meaningful program for everyone touched by the initiative. Already, one enthusiastic REDI graduate now working for Walgreens in New York was named Customer Service Employee of the Month, just three months after being hired.”

According to a 2012 Allsup disability study analysis based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities continues to be much higher than for those with no disabilities.

The first phase of REDI will begin in parts of Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin, with plans to reach all states by the end of 2013. Once a local agency is identified, there is a four-week training program, which takes place in up to five stores per district. The goal is to prepare qualified candidates for employment in store positions, as well as positions in any retail setting that requires similar skills. Responsibilities include cash register operations, customer service, merchandising, store inventory and maintaining store signage and displays.

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