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Women's Health

Office of Women's Health and Family Services


The Illinois Department of Public Health’s Office of Women’s Health and Family Services (OWHFS) envisions a future free of health disparities, where all Illinoisans have access to continuous high quality health care.


OWHFS strives to improve health outcomes of all Illinoisans by providing preventative education and services, increasing health care access, using data to ensure evidence-based practice and policy, and empowering families.

Illinois ranks fifth in the nation in population with 12.8 million people. In 2010, there were approximately 2.6 million women in Illinois of childbearing age (15-44 years). In 2014, there were 154,680 births in Illinois hospitals. Illinois has 102 counties of which 92 are rural.

OWHFS is one of the six programmatic offices within IDPH. Formerly called the Office of Women’s Health, OWHFS’ responsibilities expanded in July 2013 to include the Maternal and Child Health Title V Block Grant. OWHFS’ expanded responsibilities include overseeing the health and services for women and girls throughout their lifespan as well as family services that address the health and well-being of pregnant women, infants, children, and adolescents through Child and Adolescent Health, Perinatal Health, and School Health Programs.

OWHFS specifically addresses breast and cervical health, heart disease and lifestyle choices, teen pregnancy and subsequent pregnancy concerns, infant mortality, school health, and family planning. The OWHFS’s Women’s Health-Line is a free and confidential resource available to Illinois women with health-related questions. This free and confidential resource can be accessed at 888-522-1282.

OWHFS administers the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program (IBCCP) and the WISEWOMAN Program (IWP). The statewide IBCCP offers free breast and cervical cancer screenings to women between the ages of 21 and 64 who have low incomes and no health insurance. The IWP is offered in 13 counties and is designed to help women enrolled in the IBCCP reduce their risk for heart disease and live a heart-healthy lifestyle. Referrals for either of these programs can be obtained by calling the Health-Line.

Education programs funded by OWHFS are offered through local health departments, not-for-profit community agencies, and schools. Grant opportunities include Teen Pregnancy Prevention, School Health, Family Planning, and more.

The Penny Severns Breast, Cervical, and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund is a special fund that supports research grants in areas related to breast, cervical, and ovarian cancer prevention; etiology; pathogenesis; early detection; treatment; and behavioral sciences. Research may also include clinical trials. One-year grants are available with the possibility of two subsequent 12-month renewals. Grants are contingent upon the availability of funds and the nature of the application received.

OWHFS also receives funds through the sale of Ticket for the Cure instant scratch off lottery tickets. OWHFS recognizes breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women and sometimes affects men. Awareness and education regarding early detection needs to be increased in every community, especially for low income, underserved, and uninsured women with special emphasis on reaching those geographically or culturally isolated, older, and/or members of racial/ethnic minorities. The Ticket for the Cure Community Grant Program is designed to address these needs.

Why Women’s Health?

Traditionally, medical education and research related to women’s health have focused on reproductive health. Yet today’s women are living nearly half of their lives outside their reproductive years.

While living longer than men, women are not necessarily living better and are more vulnerable to certain chronic conditions like osteoporosis, thyroid disease, and depression.

Women have unique medical needs because of their female physiology, reproductive ability, and related hormonal influences. As a result, women demonstrate different symptoms for certain conditions and often respond to treatments differently than men.

Until recently, many studies on the detection, treatment, and prevention of disease were conducted on men only. These results were generalized to women without proof that they applied to females in the same way.