Newswise — The University of Illinois Chicago has received $5 million in funding to support the UIC-Shawnee Health Service Black Lung Clinics Program for five more years.

The grant will go to the UIC Mining Education and Research, or MinER, Center, which is housed at the UIC School of Public Health. The renewed funding, which is from the Health Resources and Services Administration, will allow the organization to provide evaluations, education, treatment and other resources to coal miners living in Illinois and Indiana.

Black lung disease is caused by the long-term inhalation of coal and rock dusts, which settle in the lungs and can cause severe difficulty breathing.

“While Chicago doesn’t historically have many former coal miners, southern Illinois and Indiana are areas where there are still active mines and we do see miners and former miners with black lung who need specialized screening and treatment which may not be available where they live,” said Dr. Leonard Go, the project director and UIC research assistant professor of environmental and occupational health sciences. “We evaluate miners for black lung at our clinic at Northwestern University and refer them for treatment and services. Providing a diagnosis also serves the very important function of helping affected miners successfully apply for disability benefits.”

The UIC-Shawnee Health Service Black Lung Clinics Program is a consortium that includes UIC and Shawnee Health Service’s Southern Illinois and the Southwestern Indiana Respiratory Disease Program. Its goal is to provide state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and compensation counseling services to miners who lack these highly specialized resources. The consortium provides services at sites in Illinois and Indiana and serves as a national referral center for complicated and difficult cases of coal mine dust lung disease and other occupational lung diseases.

The MinER Center, in collaboration with National Jewish Health, also recently received a $625,000 five-year grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, or HRSA, to support its Black Lung Data and Resource Center. The center serves as a national resource to other HRSA-funded black lung clinics to provide data analysis and educational services.

The MinER Center additionally has received a two-year grant from the Alpha Foundation. The $400,000 grant will allow the center to expand its research on health outcomes among former coal miners, including lung function decline and progression of coal mine dust-related lung disease.