Newsletter The Women’s Health Activist® is a bimonthly publication of the National Women’s Health Network. We’d like to hear from you. Please e-mail questions or comments to email@example.com.
By Kate Ryan
When cars, baby cribs, or even microwaves are recalled because there’s a safety problem or the product doesn’t work, you can check the unique serial number on your car, crib, or microwave to immediately discover if the one you own has been recalled, or if there’s no need for you to worry. Having systems that facilitate the quick and accurate identification of unsafe and ineffective devices is just common sense — so most people would be surprised to learn that, until six months ago, the system for tracking problems with medical devices was so ineffective that many people never even found out about recalls of defective products — which has the potential to put their health at risk.1
The Female Health Company (FHC) announces its 2014 FC2 College Health Mini-Grant Program, which supports on-campus organizations that provide health education and outreach to college students. The mini-grant program is designed to help colleges enhance, improve, and/or create FC2 programming on their campus. The application for funding in the 2014-2015 academic school year is now available and is open to all U.S. colleges and universities. Applications are due March 1, 2014. Find out more about the grants at http://www.fc2femalecondom.com/training/community/fc2-college-health.
By Cindy Pearson
At the Network, we listen to our members in many ways. We listen to you via elections — there’s a reminder in this newsletter issue to make sure your membership is up-to-date so you’ll be eligible to vote in the election this Spring. We listen to you via the Women’s Health Voice, our free health information service. And we listen to you when we develop our advocacy campaigns. We also try to respond to meet members’ requests for information on our website and in our newsletter. In fact, this issue of the newsletter is full of articles and information that were developed in response to member’s requests.
Thanks to our members’ generous support, the NWHN is able to work on all fronts — advocating, collaborating, and educating in order to advance women's health. Here are some highlights of our work in the last few months:
By Lillian Hewko, J.D.
The time has finally come: health insurance marketplaces are now open for enrollment for people in every state! The NWHN fought long and hard to make sure women’s voices are heard and women’s concerns were addressed in health care reform efforts. Along with our excitement about Obamacare’s implementation, however, come some challenges. We are turning our attention to making sure women know about, and can take advantage of, health care reform’s benefits.
By Adriane Fugh-Berman and Charlea Masssion
New guidelines released in November 2013 by the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) advised preventing heart attacks by treating cardiovascular risk factors instead of high cholesterol. Seemed like a good idea at first. It turns out, though, that the new guidelines will double the number of people eligible for statins — just one more way for pharmaceutical companies to expand the market to more people who don’t need drugs.
On Monday, November 18th, Network members gathered at Elizabeth’s on L in Washington, DC for the 6th Annual Barbara Seaman Awards for Activism in Women’s Health. This year’s event honored two women who have tirelessly and unabashedly advocated on behalf of women everywhere.
By Colleen Joy McCullough
In May 2013, Angelina Jolie shocked the public with her New York Times op-ed disclosing her decision to have a preventive double-mastectomy. She made the choice after receiving genetic test results that indicated she carries a mutation on her BRCA1 gene that significantly increases the risk of some types of breast or ovarian cancer.1 Her candor about this important medical decision sparked a flurry of interest from the media, health care professionals, and — perhaps most importantly — other women.
A new study supports the use of cranberry products as an alternative way to prevent reoccurring urinary tract infections (rUTI). Antibiotics are often used to treat rUTIs but, while effective, this can lead to adverse effects and future drug resistance. Cranberry juice and tablets, on the other hand, help prevent UTIs (by stopping bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract), and do not have adverse effects or increase drug resistance. To determine if cranberry products are a reasonable alternative for preventing rUTIs, researchers reviewed data from 1,616 subjects (including women and children) in 5 different trials. They found that cranberry products are effective in preventing rUTIs — especially for women and children. While more research is needed to determine the mechanism, dose, and usefulness of the treatment, researchers suggest that drinking cranberry juice, or taking tablets at least twice a day may help women avoid rUTIs.
Evidence-Based Medicine, June 2013
In November, the U.S. Supreme Court helped strike down the harmful anti-choice “Oklahoma Ultrasound Act,” which forced a woman to have an ultrasound and be shown the images before she could have a medical abortion. The Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the case means that a lower court ruling overturning the law will stand, and THAT means that Oklahoma women can still access medical abortion care without being subjected to unnecessary procedures mandated by politicians. This is a small victory at a time when a record number of anti-choice measures are being introduced and passed by state legislatures.
By Amy Allina
The National Women’s Health Network (NWHN) was founded in 1975, at a time when many women’s health activists felt encouraged by the changes they saw in reproductive health care. The organization’s early years coincided with the start of the modern era of legal abortion in the United States. Following the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v Wade decision legalizing abortion nationwide, women in many states gained access to safe and legal abortion care for the first time. Today, when state restrictions on abortion care are proliferating and reducing women’s access to abortion services, it’s easy to be nostalgic about those years.
The Network never shies away from tough issues – whether it’s challenging the dangerous over-promotion of menopause hormone therapy to healthy women, or calling for universal health care. This issue of the newsletter includes articles on several issues we’re working on right now – and some of them are definitely tough.
By Susan Gurley and Beth Tomasello
Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease (CVD) — is the leading cause of death in the United States for both women and men, affecting 75 million Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 800,000 Americans die every year from CVD.i The risks to men are more widely known, with the result that CVD is often thought of more primarily a threat to men…but nothing could be farther from the truth. CVD claims women and men in nearly equal numbers.
By Emily May
That’s the question a workshop facilitator posed to a group that included Tina Fey, who then related the following in her book, Bossypants:
The group of women was racially and economically diverse, but the answers had a very similar theme. Almost everyone first realized they were becoming a grown woman when some dude did something nasty to them. “I was walking home from ballet and a guy in a car yelled, ‘Lick me!'’” “I was babysitting my younger cousins when a guy drove by and yelled, ‘Nice ass.’” There were pretty much zero examples like “I first knew I was a woman when my mother and father took me out to dinner to celebrate my success on the debate team.” It was mostly men yelling shit from cars.1
By Candace Gibson
Early this year, I heard Sophia’s story, and it has stuck with me ever since. Sophia is an undocumented Latina immigrant living in Texas. Because of her immigration status, she is locked out of our health care system. Neither her nor her husband’s employer offers health insurance and, although Sophia’s family would qualify for Medicaid coverage on the basis of income, they are barred from participating in the program because they are undocumented. They are too afraid to enroll their children, who are U.S. citizens. While a handful of Texas clinics serve undocumented women’s health needs, none are easy to get to, and even the sliding scale fees are beyond Sophia’s reach.
By Grace Adofoli
As an African woman, I come from a place where sexual and reproductive health is not explicitly discussed or confronted like it is here. I’ve long struggled to understand the ways that issues and concepts like Reproductive Justice, Reproductive Health, and Reproductive Rights fit together and interact within the women’s health movement. So, I was delighted to have the opportunity, as a NWHN intern, to attend the United Nations’ 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57), and participate in the dialogues about these issues and women’s rights. (CSW57 was held in March 2013, at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City.)
The use of home testing kits for Chlamydia and gonorrhea could help overcome barriers to STD testing and help get people treated faster. The L.A. County Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Program’s “I Know” campaign encouraged women to order a free home STD testing kits and get their results either online or by phone. The program targeted young African American and Latina women, who may face higher barriers to care. In its 1st year, the 2,927 kits were distributed and 1,543 testable specimens received, of which 7.9% tested positive for Chlamydia and 1% for gonorrhea. Among 12-to-25-year-old women, the at-home testing rate was four times the average per-clinic testing rate at 12 local STD clinics. As hoped, young women of color ordered the most kits; the program was the least successful among Spanish speakers, women under 20, and women with gonorrhea. With improvements, the program could expand free and accessible STD testing for those who are at higher risk and/or face barriers to testing services.
American Journal of Public Health, August 2013
Who wouldn’t? It’s election time again, and the National Women’s Health Network is inviting nominations for our board of directors. All NWHN members will have a chance to vote for the new board during the Spring 2014 elections. We are seeking candidates who understand and agree with the NWHN’s mission and goals and who are committed to the activist nature of the organization. We seek diversity in race, class, age, sexual identity and geographic location, and candidates who have varied skills and experiences in women’s health. All applicants must be NWHN members.
By Rachel Walden
You may have noticed last time you got a mammogram that your facility uses digital imaging rather than traditional X-ray film. Why is that? And, is there any benefit to the newer techniques?