The Network: Inside and Out

In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states had to allow women to serve on juries; Connecticut’s Ella Grasso became the first woman governor who did not succeed her husband into office; and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had recently suspended sales of the Dalkon Shield IUD for causing infections and deaths among women who used it.

A lot has changed since the Network was founded 40 years ago. Women have more power and representation in civic and political life — but not nearly enough. The government and medical establishments pay attention to women’s health needs and concerns — but not nearly enough. Too many women still lack access to the full range of information, services, and options. So, the Network continues to advance our vision of a just health system that reflects the needs of all women.

What does it take to keep an organization going — let alone thriving — for 40 years? A focus on important issues, first and foremost. If the cause that motivated an organization’s early supporters doesn’t continue to be important, neither will the organization. We are happy that women’s health remains an important issue for so many (although we wish more politicians would join us in prioritizing evidence and science over anti-women dogma). It also takes support. The Network has chosen to build and nurture a membership base that provides a significant proportion of our financial support. In this way, we resemble many consumer advocacy organizations, and differ from most other patient/disease advocacy organizations.

Many of you have been Network members since the very beginning. We have several hundred members who joined the Network within our first decade as an organization and continue as active members today. We are honored by these members’ continued confidence in — and support for — the organization and our work.

In the decades since our founding, both long-term members and those who have joined more recently have turned to the Women’s Health Activist (WHA, formerly called the Network News) for accurate and timely information on important women’s health issues. Even in this era where the Internet offers access to fast, free, and easily accessible information, the WHA remains the place where the NWHN publishes in-depth articles.

This issue is no exception. It contains great articles on topical issues, with information that’s hard to find anywhere else. Christina Cherel explains how an industry-funded PR campaign managed to pressure the FDA into approving a drug it had turned down twice before. Adriane Fugh-Berman gives our analysis of recently published results of a menopause hormone therapy study — results that contradict claims made by researchers in charge of the study. Of course, we’re also proud of our website — in fact, we’re launching a re-design that makes it more interactive and user-friendly. Learn more about the changes in our article on page 6.

In this issue of the WHA, we’re also sharing information about the other things an organization needs to keep going for 40 years: a strong Board of Directors, and dedicated staff. The Network’s Board has been cited as a model for organizations seeking to break out of the “friends elect friends” model of board service. Network members play a big role in determining who serves on the Board: you’re eligible to submit nominations for Board candidates, and cast your ballot for the candidates you think are best for the organization. This issue includes information about Board nominations: if you’re interested in serving on the Board, or know someone who would make a great board candidate, turn to page 3 for more information.

And finally, our dedicated staff. When staff members come or go, we often take a moment to tell you a little bit about them, or thank them for their years of service. But, we rarely talk about what we do internally to support these fantastic individuals. Laura Kaplan presents an interesting commentary about the ways non-profit organizations can support staff beyond paying good salaries. She mentions the Network’s transit benefit as an example of a creative way to support staff.

Thank you being our supporters and our partners…and for giving us a chance to share the Network – inside and out.

Cindy Pearson was the NWHN’s Executive Director from 1996 to 2021. One of the nation’s leading advocates for women’s health, Cindy often testified before Congress,  NIH and the FDA and was frequently featured in the news as a consumer expert on women’s health issues. When she retired, Cindy received a Congressional Resolution in honor of her outstanding contributions to the health of women and girls.