Let’s Not Turn Back the Gains We’ve Made in Advancing Women’s Health

As we close National Women’s Health Week, we recognize the tireless contributions women have made in the overall health and well-being of our country. These contributions not only are reflective in the local community-based health programs and services that our Affiliate Network of community-based organizations and community health centers lead, but also in the leadership roles that they represent both regionally and nationally.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), we have seen major gains in access to affordable, quality, and equitable health care for women and children. Prior to the ACA, 36 percent of Latinas ages 15–44 were uninsured. In two years, that rate dropped to 25 percent. The ACA has provided millions of previously uninsured Latinas access to essential health care services and coverage.  Key preventive and sexual health services include breast and cervical cancer screenings, immunizations, breastfeeding counseling and support, domestic violence screening and support, and prenatal screenings, including gestational diabetes screening for women at high risk and folic acid supplements, that are offered at no additional cost.

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It’s National Women’s Health Week. Let’s Pledge to Take Care of Our Health!

By Marcela Vargas, Project Coordinator, Institute for Hispanic Health, NCLR

nwhw-profile-photoWhile health is always on our minds here at NCLR’s Institute for Hispanic Health (IHH), this week we are particularly thinking of women’s health.

Last Sunday was Mother’s Day and it kicked off National Women’s Health Week, led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health to encourage women to prioritize their physical and mental health. Women were also encouraged to take steps such as paying attention to mental health, eating healthy, participating in physical activity, and getting regular checkups and health screenings.

Here at IHH, we have our own efforts to promote women’s health. Among these efforts is our project Mujer Sana, Familia Fuerte(Healthy Woman, Strong Family)—funded by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—which educates women in Chicago and Washington, D.C., around cervical cancer prevention through community health workers.

Cervical cancer prevention is also near and dear to us at IHH for many reasons. Latinas have the second-highest rate of both contracting and dying from cervical cancer out of all racial and ethnic groups. Despite this, Latinas are not getting screened for cervical cancer as regularly as is recommended.

But it’s not all bad news. Not only is cervical cancer preventable, but it is also easily treated if caught in early stages. Getting routine Pap tests is a valuable way of identifying cervical cancer when treatment is still simple and effective. The CDC reports that 60 percent of cervical cancer cases occur in women who have never received a Pap test or have not been tested within the last five years.

Today is the last day of National Women’s Health Week, but that doesn’t mean we can forget about our health. You can take your own steps to help yourself or a loved one prioritize a healthy life. Pledge to become a well woman and educate yourself about Latinas and cervical cancer.