Local participants sought for public health survey

CHICAGO - In response to inquiries from Mount Greenwood and Beverly area medical professionals and concerned residents, the University of Chicago has agreed to bring a comprehensive cancer and chronic disease study to the 19th Ward.

The Chicago Multiethnic Prevention and Surveillance Study (COMPASS) is designed by researchers at the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center to understand how lifestyle, healthcare delivery, environment, and genetics affect health.

COMPASS aims to determine why certain population groups in the city of Chicago have higher rates of occurrence of cancer and chronic diseases than others.

"Both medical professionals and elected officials in our area have received numerous inquiries about what seems to be the frequent occurrence of certain cancers in the community," said State Senator Bill Cunningham. “Unfortunately, public health agencies have been unable to reach any conclusive findings on the matter. Having a prestigious research institution like the U. of C. conduct a formal health survey in the community should help end speculation and provide us with some hard data."

Last year, 19th Ward Alderman Matt O’Shea, State Representatives Fran Hurley and Kelly Burke, and Senator Cunningham held a series of meetings with constituents and local medical professionals about the possibility of a “cancer cluster” existing in the area after several children in Mount Greenwood were diagnosed with various forms of cancer.

The meetings spurred a request to the Chicago Department of Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to conduct a review of reports of cancer in the area. IDPH subsequently conducted and released an "Epidemiological Report" covering Mount Greenwood, Morgan Park, Beverly, Evergreen Park, and Oak Lawn that looked at reports of cancer from 2005 to 2014. IDPH found that there was no evidence to suggest an abnormal number of pediatric cancer incidents in Mount Greenwood or any of the surrounding communities.

However, the IDPH report did find elevated occurrence of breast, lung, and prostate cancer in the area compared to levels reported in Cook County as a whole. The report did not offer any explanation for the increase incidents of those cancers.

"Even though the IDPH report did not find elevated incidents of pediatric cancer, we still have a number of unanswered questions about cancer in our community," Hurley said. "The U. of C. study will examine whether certain behavioral or environmental risks are affecting our health."

Alderman O’Shea credited two local medical professionals, Dr. Moira McQuillan McGee and Brisa Aschebrook-Kilfoy, an epidemiologist at the University of Chicago, with spearheading efforts to formally research cancer occurrences in the area.

“We are lucky to have neighbors who are willing to use their professional training and expertise to protect the health of our community,” O’Shea said. “Without their efforts, the 19th Ward would not have been chosen for this study.”

As part of the COMPASS study, U of C researchers are working in various Chicago neighborhoods to recruit study participants. Eligible participants are asked to complete a specially designed interview (questions about lifestyle, environmental exposure, and medical history), and to provide a blood and urine sample. Radon and drinking water tests in various homes may also be conducted. Participants are also asked to fill out a follow-up questionnaire every two to three years to obtain updated health information.

The goal of COMPASS is not to diagnose cancer among individual participants, but to identifying what behavior and environmental exposure might cause disease across different population sub-groups, which will help U of C to develop new strategies to prevent cancer and other chronic diseases among Chicagoans.

“Thanks to the University of Chicago for dedicating staff and resources for this community study,” said Representative Burke. “We all have friends, family, or neighbors who have battled cancer. I encourage 19th Ward residents to participate in the study. The results could lead to insights and answers on the rates of certain cancers in our neighborhood.”

Anyone interested in participating in the COMPASS survey is encouraged to sign up by sending an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Only 19th Ward residents are eligible. Please include your name, age, address, and phone number.

Category: Press Releases

021318 KS 9533

“A long public debate on legalizing marijuana — like the one that is occurring now —followed by a ballot referendum to determine the public’s point-of-view, is a sensible course of action for the legislature to follow on this topic.” - State Sneator Bill Cunningham

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois voters may get the chance to let their voices be heard on the subject of the legalization of cannabis under legislation passed out of committee in Springfield this week. The legislation, Senate Bill 2275, would place an advisory question on the 2018 ballot asking Illinois voters if they are in favor of marijuana legalization.

State Senator Bill Cunningham, the sponsor of the measure, says the advisory question will help legislators gauge the public’s opinion on the subject. Most states that have legalized recreational use of marijuana have done so through ballot initiatives.

“Marijuana legalization is a complicated and controversial topic that is currently being debated throughout Illinois,” Cunningham said. “A referendum could serve an important role in that discussion by allowing legislators to fully understand the public’s opinion of the idea.”

The proposed referendum would ask voters to vote “yes” or “no” on this question: "Do you support the legalization of possession and use of marijuana by persons who are at least 21 years of age, subject to regulation and taxation that is similar to the regulation and taxation of tobacco and alcohol?"

A series of legislative hearings on marijuana legalization have been held recently by State Senator Heather Steans and State Representative Kelly Cassidy. Testimony has been provide on the effects legalization might have on public health and the criminal justice system, as well as on the possibility of new revenue being generated through taxing the sale of marijuana.

“One of the lessons we learned from the prohibition of alcohol nearly a century ago is that it is nearly impossible to enforce a law if a majority of citizens do not support it,” Cunningham said. “A long public debate on legalizing marijuana — like the one that is occurring now —followed by a ballot referendum to determine the public’s point-of-view, is a sensible course of action for the legislature to follow on this topic.”

Category: Press Releases

Sen Cunningham Piets

CHICAGO – An area state legislator is joining a south suburban family in their fight against lung cancer.

State Senator Bill Cunningham will join the Piet family from Tinley Park for the Hustle Up the Hancock event held in downtown Chicago by the Respiratory Health Association.

Cunningham was inspired by young Ian Piet, who lost his father to lung cancer in 2015. Witnessing the battle motivated Ian and his mother Holli to become advocates for a cure for lung cancer and other respiratory diseases.

This will be the second year in a row Cunningham has joined Piet on the 94-story climb up the John Hancock Building to raise awareness and funds to find a cure for lung cancer.

“I am proud to do everything I can to help Ian raise awareness and money to combat cancer and other respiratory illnesses,” Cunningham said. “We all must do our part to help end cancer once and for all.”

This year’s event is scheduled for Feb. 25, 2018.

Category: Press Releases


“The negatives of Crosscheck far outweigh any of the positives. By ending our participation in that system, we can guarantee that the personal information of Illinois voters won’t be weaponized by anyone.” - State Senator Bill Cunningham

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate passed legislation today ending Illinois’ participation in the controversial Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program. The program, called Crosscheck for short, is intended to check if people are registered to vote in multiple states.

However, the program is prone to cybersecurity concerns and has been used to suppress minority voters by purging valid voters from voter rolls.

In response, legislation was filed in Springfield that would require Illinois to use the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) instead of Crosscheck. ERIC uses tougher security protocols and more information to guarantee that personal information is correct and safer from hacking.

State Senator Bill Cunningham was the measure’s chief co-sponsor.

“The negatives of Crosscheck far outweigh any of the positives,” Cunningham said. “By ending our participation in that system, we can guarantee that the personal information of Illinois voters won’t be weaponized by anyone.”

The measure now goes to the House of Representatives.

Category: Press Releases


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