NWHN’s Vision for Women’s Health: Will It Take Another 30 Years?
by Cindy Pearson
If you’ve been reading NWHN’s newsletter for very long, you probably have a good idea of what we’re trying to accomplish. We want to provide useful information that helps people make informed decisions about their health, and we want to make long-term changes in the United States’ health care system to improve the health of all women. Those were the goals articulated by our founders, Barbara Seaman, Phyllis Chesler, Belita Cowan, Alice Wolfson and Mary Howell — bold women who wanted to make a difference — and we’re proud to follow in their footsteps. Barbara, Phyllis, Belita, Alice and Mary envisioned a world in which medical care was provided in a respectful manner, with the patient’s best interest at heart, and the health of all people was a national priority.
Where are we now? Women, at least some of them, are more likely to be treated respectfully, at least some of the time. Information about health and medical issues is much more available, although some of it isn’t trustworthy. And, improving the health of all people has been made a priority, at least in some respects. Both women and men are much less likely to die of heart disease than they were 30 years ago, and much of that progress is due to health promotion efforts.
Still, there’s so much more to do. Our health care system does not take into account the needs of all women. Nor is it organized in a way that supports the development and provision of services and products that do not advance the profit motives of the health care industry. Some health care interventions are worth doing not because they make money, but because they enhance health. Millions of people are left out of the system all together, and millions more can’t afford their deductibles or the costs of their prescription medicines. Health promoting aspects of American life sometimes seem to be overwhelmed by fast food, streets without sidewalks, unsafe or inadequate parks and other outdoor spaces, and carelessness about dangerous chemicals in the environment.
And, the last few weeks have certainly been frustrating. As I write this letter, Congress is debating cutting Medicaid to reduce the deficit, even though so many people displaced by the Gulf Coast hurricanes need a safety net. Dr. Lester Crawford — the FDA Commissioner who was controversial for his willingness to do the bidding of the Bush Administration and stop Plan B emergency contraceptives from becoming available over-the-counter — resigned suddenly because of an apparent conflict of interest. How can we make progress when our government won’t implement the basic necessities for medical care — access and safe treatments, science-based policies and programs?
Will the Network’s vision for women’s health ever be accomplished? I know that we’ll have to re-double our efforts. We have made tremendous progress in the last 30 years and I believe that we can enact our vision in time. I believe that we can make it happen, especially with your continued support.