Southeastern Synod ELCA

Improving Health of Women!

June 19, 2017

As I often do when preparing to write a monthly newsletter article I consulted the list of National Health Observances published annually by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  The list of observances for May is long but none drew my attention more than National Women's Health Week, May 14-20.  As I researched data for a potential article on the current health of women in the United States I realized that it is not coincidental that women's health should be highlighted during the month of May. Each year, this special week begins with Mother's Day, serving as a beacon of hope for excellent health for all girls and women. 

A review of facts on women's health across the nation is eye opening.  Data show that heart disease, cancer and chronic lower respiratory disease remain the leading causes of death in women.  Interesting facts from the US 2015 National Health Interview Survey show that slightly more than thirteen percent of women eighteen years and older are in fair or poor health, slightly more than thirteen percent of women eighteen years and older currently smoke, slightly more than thirty-eight percent of women twenty years and older are obese, slightly more than thirty-three percent of women twenty years and older have hypertension while less than one half of women eighteen years and older meet daily aerobic activity guidelines. Multiple reasons for a poor outcome in women's health frequently beginning at birth include but certainly are not limited to income, language barriers, education, employment, transportation, medical insurance, housing, and access to health care. 

The theme for National Women's Health Week, “I Am Worth It!” is chosen this year to empower women of all ages to make health a top priority.  This message encourages women to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risk of disease by starting with a well visit to their physician. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, well-women visits are considered a preventive service and must be covered by most health plans. In addition, this week’s message encourages women to get active, eat healthy food, pay attention to mental health and avoid unhealthy behaviors.  Because women often serve as caregivers, putting the needs of the family first, their health and well-being becomes secondary. As women, we have a responsibility to tell ourselves that we are worthy of paying attention to our own health.  As members of the Lutheran community, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help other women and girls take steps for longer, healthier, more productive and happier lives. 

Women, if you are not already doing so, the month of May is your time to positively impact your own health.  In addition to starting with a visit to your physician, there are multiple resources on-line for improving your health.  A few ideas for May include:

Take the What’s Your Health Style? quiz on womenshealth.gov
Start a competition with co-workers or friends to track steps or water intake.
Drink water instead of soda and sugary drinks.
Encourage everyone to stand at your next meeting.
Organize a lunchtime walk with your coworkers.
Get up early and walk a mile or two before starting your workday. 
Cook something healthy. There are multiple healthy cooking resources on-line. 
Add a fitness class to your weekly routine. 

Men, don't forget to support the females in your family and to encourage them to take care of their health by recognizing that the month of May is their time to make health a top priority. For all, during this month, become a beacon of hope for women and girls beyond the doors of your
congregation.  Look for volunteer resources that serve women and girls. You might want to use your skills by cooking breakfast at a women’s shelter, working at a food pantry, researching the needs of your community and sharing an idea or teaching a woman how to read. The needs are multiple; your time as a volunteer in providing a needed service for another woman or a girl is invaluable. Give hope for good health to yourself and other women and girls!

Resources:  
             Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health                            
             Statistics, Women's Health, FastStats, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/womens- 
             health.htm, Last updated, March 17, 2017.
              US  Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Women's Health,                                           womenhealth.gov, girlshealth.gov.

In Christ,

Connie Pearson, RN, MN
Chairperson
Southeastern Synod Health Ministries Task Force