Union representatives and public health representatives were joined by a group of mostly African American female aldermen on Thursday, sounding the alarm about the city's plan to privatize a public mammogram program.
News of the change, which comes out during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, could affect thousands of women who annually rely on the screenings.
"The city's plan to close the breast health program is especially alarming considering the breast cancer mortality rate among African Americans in Chicago is 62 percent higher than that for white women," said Dr. Odie Payne III, the vice president of the Public Health Organization.
Accusations of mismanagement in the city program earlier this year lead to a loss of a $296,000 grant from the Illinois Breast and Cervical Cancer Program.
Several Chicago alderman, including Ald Pat Dowell (3rd), Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), Ald. Emma Mitts (37th), came forward to urge Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Public Health to maintain funding for the program.
"I will be working very hard with my colleagues to ensure that services remain in place for African American and other minority women," said Dowell (3rd), herself a breast cancer survivor. "Maintaining breast health is very important."
Officials from a union representing health care workers said terminating the program would affect their jobs and their ability to provide free services to women, mostly in minority and low-income communities, with the annual services they need.
The Chicago Tribune, which first reported that the city was exploring privatizing the services, said city records showed that nearly 3,000 women took part in the program during the year that ended June 30.