Illinois Department of Public HealthBruce Rauner, Governor

Health Care-Associated Infections

Health care-associated infections, or HAIs, are among the top 10 causes of death in the United States and cost in excess of $20 billion a year.  These infections are acquired by patients during the course of receiving treatment for other conditions within a health care setting, including hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory surgical centers, and community clinics.  Many of these infections are preventable with appropriate health care practices. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reports that “Adults who develop health care-associated infections (HAIs) due to medical or surgical care while in the hospital have to stay an average of 19 days longer than adults who don’t develop an infection.”  (

The infections that account for the majority of health care-associated infections include:

In additon, two important organisms in the area of health care-associated infections are Clostridium difficile and Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)Overuse and misuse of antibiotics contribute to rising rates of these types of infections.  Read more about antibiotic resistance and what can be done to prevent this here. Hand hygiene, which includes hand-washing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer, is one of the most important pieces of HAI prevention.  The following links provide more information about hand hygiene:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Hand Hygiene in Healthcare Settings
Hand Hygiene Resource Center
Illinois Department of Public Health Hand-washing Poster

Preventing Health Care-Associated Infections

A National and State Priority

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued the National Action Plan to Prevent Health Care Associated Infections: Roadmap to Elimination. in an effort to combat this growing problem. The action plan calls for a national approach to reduce the transmission of disease, development of strong partnerships between federal and local governments for prevention, and education of providers and other health care personnel in the best prevention practices to reduce these infections. The action plan also includes specific national targets for reduction of key health care-associated infections and a call to educate the public about these infections and how to prevent them..

In concert with the national initiative, the Illinois Department of Public Health (the Department) applied for and was awarded $853,400 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The funding was used to enhance HAI prevention efforts across the state of Illinois between 2009 and 2011.  The Department created an HAI Prevention Advisory Council with key stakeholders, hired an HAI coordinator, developed a focused Illinois HAI Prevention Plan, and implemented a C. difficile prevention collaborative. In 2011 and 2012, the Department sought and secured grant funding from the Affordable Care Act to implement an antimicrobial stewardship collaborative and a statewide C. difficile education campaign targeting health care workers. Ongoing efforts include providing regular educational webinars, facilitating statewide discussion and programs on antimicrobial stewardship, and reducing C. difficile and other HAIs across the continuum of health care settings.    

Illinois HAI Prevention Plan

The comprehensive Illinois HAI Prevention Plan details goals for the state from December 2009 to December 2014 that are in line with the national action plan.  Specific HAI targets were prioritized including prevention of  Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSI), Surgical Site Infections, Clostridium difficile (C. difficile), and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  Goals were set in four key areas:

  1. Expand Illinois HAI surveillance, detection and reporting. This includes expanding state-wide reporting of HAIs in hospitals through the CDC’s National Health Safety Network (NHSN) surveillance system.  Effective surveillance is essential to HAI identification and monitoring.
  2. Enhance development of automated HAI laboratory and surveillance reports. This will foster accurate monitoring of HAIs and reduce the work burden placed on health care infection prevention workers.
  3. Establish a a C. difficile quality improvement collaborative with participation from 20 different hospitals across the State. Read more about HAI quality improvement collaboratives and other prevention initiatives.
  4. Measure progress towards targets for infection reduction using NHSN data as well as evaluate and share lessons learned from the C difficile collaborative.