In The News

The Loretto Hospital Incorporates Life-style Nutrition to Help Combat Chronic Diseases on Chicago's Greater West Side

CHICAGO, IL – April 5, 2018 – Dr. Terry Mason, Chief Operating Officer over the Cook County Health Systems, came to The Loretto Hospital last Wednesday in honor of National Nutrition Month, to shed light on the dangerous eating habits of Americans as a cause for many chronic diseases, in particular those in communities that are stricken with poverty, poor access to quality health care and grocery stores. According to Dr. Mason, chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even many cancers can be reversed, and even prevented, with “Life-Style Nutrition”, also known as a plant-based diet.

“Diseases such as a heart attack is a misleading term. A heart attack rarely has anything to do with the heart early on. It’s a problem with the blood vessels (which are blocked) that feed the heart. I would say that is not the cause but the effect. You have to look at what was in the blood that caused the blood vessels to get blocked in the first place. And, it came from what the person ate,” Dr. Terry Mason said during his lecture in an auditorium with standing room only of medical students, physicians, patients, Austin community residents and employees of the hospital.

Compared to the general population, underserved populations are disproportionately affected by chronic diseases, according to a report issued by the Illinois Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights. About 70 million Americans are at risk of high blood pressure, the leading cause of more than half of all heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure cases in the United States each year, which also increases the risks of kidney failure and blindness. These possibilities run nearly 40 percent higher in the African-Americans than in whites. In addition to heart disease, African-Americans are 50 percent more likely than whites to suffer from cancer, and are more likely to die from it. Likewise, Hispanic-Americans are also disproportionately affected by chronic diseases. Hispanics in the U.S. are 50 percent more likely than whites to suffer from diabetes, and the incidences of diabetes among Native Americans in more than twice that of white Americans. The highest incidence of diabetes in African Americans occurs between 65- 75 years of age. Both groups have higher rates of end-stage renal disease, caused by diabetes, and they are 40% more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanic whites.

“It shouldn’t matter where a person lives to receive access to quality health care. It should be a standard for every citizen in the United States and in every community in the Chicagoland area to receive the same level of excellent care,” said The Loretto Hospital CEO George N. Miller, Jr.

As for the general health status of people living in The Loretto Hospital service area which includes Austin, East and West Garfield Parks, and North and South Lawndale, only 39 percent of adults rate their health as good. About 62 percent were told they have high blood pressure; 85 percent present one or more have cardiovascular risks; and about 3.5 of all respondents had been diagnosed with some type of cancer, as reported in the last Community Health Needs Assessment completed by the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council on behalf of The Loretto Hospital.

“People living just 20 minutes North of The Loretto Hospital have a life expectancy of more than 20 years greater than a resident in the Austin Community. One’s zip code should never dictate the type of care they receive. Most importantly, it certainly should not determine whether an individual lives or dies because they lack access to the best health care and health education.” Miller said. “So, one of the ways we plan to improve health outcomes in the communities we service is by ensuring that we bring on programs and services that meet their needs and that help cure these illnesses”, he said.

One of the new health care programs includes expanding the hospital’s diabetes program by bringing on Certified Diabetes Nurse Clinician and Education Nancy Rodriquez. She is also certified in plant-based nutrition through Life-Style Nutrition through the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine out of Washington, DC. The Physicians Committee combines the clout and expertise of more than 12,000 physicians with the dedicated actions of more than 175,000 members across the United States and around the world to dramatically change the way doctors treat chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. The goal is to empower patients to take control of their own health. With this knowledge, Rodriquez holds monthly seminars at the hospital, and consults with patients and Loretto team members on a one-on-one basis, about their nutrition options to prevent and even to reverse chronic diseases. Options include Life-Style Nutrition, Diabetes Undone, and the American Association of Diabetes Education (AADE) certified program. Each program promotes the importance of consuming more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and a variety of beans as a primary source of nutrition. According to Rodriquez, The Loretto Hospital is the one of the only hospitals in Illinois using the Life-Style Nutrition approach issued by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

“I felt led by God to be here. Little by little our patients, administration and employees are now embracing this new lifestyle change. To make a program like this happen, you have to have the synergy from everyone in order to make it successful. As a result, I have seen dramatics results by implementing these programs. I am seeing patients’ blood pressure reduce. I am seeing people lose weight. I am seeing individual’s H1C levels reduce. It’s like Dr. Mason said, people who adopt these plant-based lifestyles are getting healthier and a better quality of life,” Rodriquez said.

“It’s as simple as drinking more water – we are 70 percent water – and eating the foods that God made, more natural green foods like fruits and vegetables,” Dr. Terry Mason said during his lecture.

In addition to holding monthly hour-long nutrition seminars to help patients combat chronic illnesses, CEO Miller has begun speaking at local-area churches and community-based organizations to spread the word about the Life-Style Nutrition program, as well as what’s on the horizon for The Loretto Hospital. He has also made a vow to take certain food items off the hospital’s menu such as pork products like bacon and hot dogs.

“At The Loretto Hospital, we will continue to advocate on behalf of our patients and for this community. Advocates push for change, fight for equality, and promote excellence. It is our goal to set the precedent of how health care is delivered by safety net hospitals across this Nation,” Miller said.

To learn more about The Loretto Hospital’s Life-Style Nutrition Program, call 773-854-5218. For a replay of Dr. Terry Mason’s lecture on Fighting Chronic Disease with Life-Style Nutrition, visit us on Facebook at