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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
By mai doan
“We as students have rights! We have a right to know our own bodies and have access to information.” This is the voice of an Oakland, California youth expressing frustration over the lack of relevant sex education and support being provided in the schools. And, this is the story of what the students did about it.
Written by: Cindy Pearson
Last year, the NWHN received a generous donation from For Good, an endeavor established by Megan Williams in memory of her sister, Melissa, who passed away in 2007 from pulmonary embolisms (blood clots) in her lungs. Melissa’s family believes the clots were caused by Yaz, the birth control Melissa used. Yaz is an oral contraceptive that contains the progestin drospirenone; (other similar brands include Yasmin, Beyaz, and Safyral, and several generic versions). Like many other contraceptives, the pills deliver a combination of estrogen and progestin; drospirenone is just a newer generation of progestin than that used in other combination pills. What’s different is that women who take drospirenone-containing pills appear to be more likely to get blood clots than women who use other oral contraceptives.
By Kate Ryan and Melissa Torres-Montoya
It’s safe to say that women want a voice in decisions that will affect their lives – to be able to consider their options and have their choices respected. Women receive better health care when they’re actively engaged in making decisions about their health. Women’s health activists know this and have long advocated for an equitable health care system that supports women’s choices. In the context of pregnancy and birth, we want to ensure that a pregnant woman won't lose her job because of her pregnancy, and that she is able to choose how and where she'll give birth, as well as who delivers her baby. In many places in the U.S., however, women lack options because of unnecessary barriers and restrictions in these areas. (See the Young Feminist column for more on this issue.)
There is more disturbing proof that consumer products like lipsticks and lip glosses contain potentially harmful levels of toxic metals including lead, cadmium, aluminum, manganese, and chromium. A scientific review analyzed the potential daily ingestion of lipstick/gloss manufactured by 7 companies based on “average” use (24 milligrams of lipstick/gloss applied a day) and “high” use (87 mg/day). Of the 32 products tested, 10 (31%) were found to over-expose consumers to chromium that could increase the risk for stomach tumors and nervous system problems, even when used in only “average” quantities; 66% of the products exceeded the acceptable daily intake of chromium with “high” use. Sadly, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require cosmetics to be approved for safety before going on the market. We need more oversight and rules about the maximum levels of toxic metals that cosmetics can contain to protect people from dangerous toxins. Some groups are particularly at risk, including children, teens, pregnant women, and adults who are heavy users of these products.
Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2013
By Laura Kaplan
Sometimes it’s like this: At bedtime, I put my head on the pillow, exhausted, and am immediately wide awake, and I mean wide awake; or, it takes me an hour or more to fall asleep; or I fall asleep quickly but then wake up 1½ hours later, wide awake, and unable to fall asleep again; or, I go to sleep quickly, sleep deeply and then wake up at 4:00 am or so and can’t get back to sleep. Then, there are the nights I spend the whole night “sleep-surfing,” not really awake, but not sleeping deeply, either. All of these lead to days where I’m bleary and irritable.
By Rachel Walden
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the United States and is so prevalent that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “nearly all sexually-active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.”i But, the virus usually clears on its own, without causing any damage — often without showing any symptoms. The HPV vaccine can prevent infection, but it’s not for everyone. We’ll tell you what you need to know about the virus and the vaccine.
The Dept. of Justice updated its sexual assault examination guidelines to include a new protocol specifying that health care providers should offer all rape survivors Emergency Contraception at the time of their examination. The guidelines dictate that any provider who refuses to offer EC due to “religious or moral beliefs” must provide the patient with “information on how to access these services in a timely fashion.” This is a great step forward! Now, if we could just prevent sexual assaults in the first place!
By Jennifer Lee and Sarah Lipton-Lubet
Since the Obama Administration announced in August 2011 that health insurance plans would be required to cover contraceptive care without charging co-pays, over 50 lawsuits have been filed across the country claiming that requiring employers to provide insurance coverage for contraception violates employers’ religious beliefs. The lawsuits may be making headlines, but the Administration’s rule for implementing this policy, which includes a narrow exemption for institutions such as houses of worship, is fully consistent with religious freedom law and principles — not to mention that it is a major advance for women’s health and equality. Nonetheless, with this many cases at play, it is almost certain that at least one of the lawsuits will be heard by the Supreme Court, and the outcome could affect far more than the future of the contraceptive coverage rule.
By Cynthia Pearson
By Heidi Gider and Amirah Tyler
Our members are the heart and spirit of the Network! We receive a number of calls, emails, and letters from you and enjoy having the opportunity to talk about our work. We get certain questions a lot, and thought we’d take this opportunity to answer a few of the most common ones. If you have a different question for us, please feel free to contact us at any time —by email at email@example.com or by phone at 202.682.2640. We want to hear from you!
By Allyson Reddy, NWHN Intern
We’ve come a long way in treating HIV/AIDS, but there is a strong need for more and better tools that can prevent transmission and stem the tide of infection. So, last year, HIV/AIDS activists celebrated when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Truvada, a drug that can reduce the risk of HIV infection. Truvada is a combination of two anti-retroviral drugs already used for HIV treatment (tenofovir and emtricitibine); the new approved use is based on research showing that, taken daily before exposure to HIV, the combination offers protection against infection. This is called “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or (PrEP).
By Taylor Cole, NWHN Volunteer
As children, everyone experiences pressure from their parents to do or try something new. Well, as an eight-year-old with quite a bit of baby fat, I was pushed onto a swim team. Little did my family know that this little push would completely change my life, and theirs, in so many amazing ways!
Network Program Update
We love sharing news about issues of concern to our community through the Women’s Health Activist. Now, we’re introducing a new column to share updates about some of the issues and activities staff are working on. We plan to bring you this update regularly throughout the year, to highlight ways the Network is advancing women’s health issues every day.
Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need
By Charlea Massion and Adriane Fugh-Berman
We constantly hear that obesity is a killer and that the obesity epidemic will surely sink our health care system — but are a few extra pounds really bad for your health? A recent study suggests that being a little overweight may actually reduce your chance of dying. Hear us out, though, before scarfing some cookies in celebration!
What a difference simple, common sense improvements can make! The non-profit organization, We Care Solar, is distributing its free “solar suitcase” kits to medical facilities in Africa, Asia, and South America. The suitcases emit light and can help prevent maternal and infant deaths caused by birth attendants’ lack of adequate lighting. Originally designed for midwives, health care workers have also used the kits to treat patients during a recent cholera outbreak in the Congo!
By Judy Costlow
I have been aging for decades, but it only took me one year to grow old! “Things” can happen quickly in our lives as we age, and we may not be prepared to handle them. Loss of a loved one, a stroke, a broken hip, heart attack, and diabetes are all too common for older folks. A friend says, Jan fell and broke her hip. Even though she is doing well, she is limited in her physical activities, as she must now use a cane. What can we do to better prepare ourselves for healthier aging? Part of the answer, which this article explores, lies in building and maintaining social connections, keeping physically fit, and avoiding falls.
By Cindy Pearson
Ever hear that old joke? One friend asks another “How was the continental breakfast at the hotel?” The friend replies, ‘It was awful. The coffee was cold, the pastry was stale, and the juice was sour. And there wasn’t enough of it!”