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March Is Women's History Month
Until the 1970s, the contributions of women to American society were virtually uncelebrated. In 1978 the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women initiated a "Women's History Week" during the week of March 8. Within a few years, schools around the country had embraced "Women's History Week" and curriculum was developed to recognize the important contributions of women to American Society.
In 1981, Senator Orrin Hatch and then Representative Barbara Mikulski co-sponsored the first Joint Congressional Resolution and in 1987, the Women's History Month Project (a nonprofit educational corporation) petitioned Congress to expand the national celebration to the entire month of March. Since 1987, Congress, with bi-partisan support, has designated March as "National Women's History Month." See the Presidential proclamation for Women’s History Month 2012.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) have conducted research, implemented programs, and developed strategies to help women live healthier lives. These activities have helped address a variety of health issues, including cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, pregnancy, smoking, violence, workplace safety, and more.
CDC takes this opportunity to celebrate the month of March with special attention to women’s health.
Affordable Care Act Provisions that Impact Women
The Affordable Care Act helps make prevention affordable and accessible for all Americans by requiring new health plans to cover and eliminate cost sharing for preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Bright Futures Guidelines recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics. The law also requires insurance companies to cover additional preventive health benefits for women. Under Section 2713 of the Affordable Care Act new guidelines were adopted that will require most private health plans to cover preventive services for women without charging a co-pay starting on August 1, 2012 to fill the gaps in current preventive services guidelines for women’s health. These preventive services include well women visits, screening for gestational diabetes, human papillomavirus testing, counseling for sexually transmitted infections; counseling and screening for human immune-deficiency virus; domestic violence screening, and contraception, and all were recommended to the Secretary of Health and Human Services by the independent Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science.
2012 Women’s Health Calendars
This colorful one-page women’s health calendar promotes taking simple steps for a safe and healthy life and is available in English and Spanish, and includes National Women’s Health Week which is May 13–19, 2012. The week begins on Mother’s Day each year. The theme for 2012 is “It’s Your Time.” More health observances focused on women and girls are available on Healthfinder.gov.
Text4baby – Cell Phone Text Messages for Pregnant Women and New Moms: To help more pregnant women and new moms get information about caring for their health and giving their babies the best possible start in life, the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) launched text4baby, the first free health text messaging service in the U.S. Text4baby supports moms by providing health information and resources in a mobile format that is personal and timely. CMS is working with 18 wireless carriers and platform developer Voxiva to encourage pregnant women and new mothers to sign up Text4Baby during enrollment in the Children's Health Insurance Program and Medicaid. The service, which was launched in February 2010, has already sent 29 million free text messages to participants about prenatal and pediatric care.
Cooperative Agreement to Support Young Women Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: CDC has awarded funding to seven organizations for a new three-year cooperative agreement, “Developing support and educational awareness for young (<45 years of age) breast cancer survivors in the United States,” as part of a broader effort to support breast cancer awareness in young women.
CDC Announces New Effort to Boost Number of Baby-Friendly Hospitals: CDC has awarded nearly $6 million over three years to the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality to help hospitals nationwide make quality improvements to maternity care to better support mothers and babies to be able to breastfeed. The goal of the project is to accelerate the number of U.S. Baby-Friendly hospitals.
Dating Matters™: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships: CDC is funding four communities across the U. S. for Dating Matters. The $7 million will help run teen dating violence prevention programs for five years at local health departments in Baltimore, Maryland; Ft. Lauderdale, Florida; Chicago, Illinois, and Oakland/Hayward, California. Dating Matters is a program designed to help 11- to 14-year-olds in high-risk, urban communities. Activities for friends, families, schools, and neighborhoods are designed to help keep teens safe when they date.
Recent CDC Releases
Prepregnancy Contraceptive Use among Teens with Unintended Pregnancies Resulting in Live Births - Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2004–2008: This report indicates that teens from 19 states who delivered a live infant from an unintended pregnancy have much lower rates of contraceptive use when compared with all sexually active teens.
West Virginia: Developing GDM Interventions in an Outpatient Clinic
As part of a multistate gestational diabetes collaborative funded by the Division of Diabetes Translation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, West Virginia has developed a continuous quality improvement project to enhance clinical services for women at risk or with GDM during and after pregnancy.
After the first year, the Charleston Area Medical Center Ob-Gyn clinic showed the following improvements:
Cancer Screening—United States, 2010: Each year, approximately 350,000 persons are diagnosed with breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer in the United States and nearly 100,000 die from these diseases. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening tests for each of these cancers to reduce morbidity and mortality. Healthy People 2020 sets national objectives for use of the recommended cancer screening tests and identifies the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) as the means to measure progress. The proportions of women being screened for breast cancer (72.4%) and cervical cancers (83.0%) are below the respective Healthy People 2020 targets of 81.1% and 93.0%.
Reproductive Health Assessment after Disaster Toolkit: This toolkit provides a set of tools to assess the reproductive health needs of women aged 15–44 affected by natural and man-made disasters. Funding and scientific technical assistance was provided by CDC.
Hair, Formaldehyde, and Industrial Hygiene: On January 30, 2012, the California Attorney General announced a settlement with the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout products that requires the company to warn consumers and hair stylists that two of their most popular hair-smoothing products emit formaldehyde gas.
Nurses’ Miscarriages Linked to Chemicals at Work: A new CDC study finds a greater-than-expected risk of miscarriages among nurses, associated with occupational exposures to hazardous drugs.
Women with Disabilities and Breast Cancer: Women with disabilitiesare also at risk of breast cancer. Women between the ages of 40–49, should talk with their doctor about getting a mammogram, and those between the ages of 50–74, should get a mammogram at least every 2 years.
Leading Causes of Death in Females, United States, 2007: These one-page tables provide the leading causes of death for females, as well as for females by age and by race/ethnicity.
Prevent Domestic Violence in Your Community: A key strategy in preventing intimate partner violence is the promotion of respectful, nonviolent intimate partner relationships through individual, community, and societal level change.
Million Hearts Goal to Prevent a Million Heart Attacks and Strokes in Five Years: Among the actions available today to reduce stroke and heart attacks, Million Hearts seeks to help patients learn and follow their ABCS: aspirin for people at risk, blood pressure control, cholesterol management, and smoking cessation.
Births: Preliminary Data for 2010: The preliminary number of US births was 4,000,279 in 2010, three percent less than in 2009; the general fertility rate (64.1 per 1,000 women age 15–44 years)and the total fertility rate (1,932.0 births per 1,000 women) also declined in 2010.
Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance, 2010: Data from this report show a heavy burden in the United States for chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and highlight ongoing health inequalities that drive racial disparities. CDC estimates that there are 19 million new infections each year in the U.S. with an annual cost of $17 billion to the U.S. healthcare system. Untreated gonorrhea and chlamydia can lead to ectopic pregnancy and infertility in women.
CDC launched an effort to Protect Cancer Patients from Infections: CDC’s Preventing Infections in Cancer Patients is a comprehensive initiative focusing on providing information, action steps, and tools for patients, their families, and their health care providers to reduce the risk of life-threatening infections during chemotherapy treatment.
Maternal and Infant Outcomes Among Severely Ill Pregnant and Postpartum Women with 2009 Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1)—United States, April 2009-August 2010: Among women who delivered while hospitalized for influenza, 63.6% delivered preterm or very preterm and 43.8% delivered low birth weight infants compared with U.S. averages of 12.3% for preterm birth and 8.2% for low birth weight.
Vital Signs: Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the U.S.: Prevention efforts work by teaching teens how and why to delay starting sex and steps that they need to take if they become sexually active. Key components include sex education that has been shown to work, support for parent-teen communication about preventing pregnancy, and ready access to sexual and reproductive health services. Sexually active teens should have access to effective and affordable birth control.
Why is vision loss and blindness a problem for women and others?
People with vision loss are more likely to report depression, diabetes, hearing impairment, stroke, falls, cognitive decline, and premature death. Decreased ability to see often leads to the inability to drive, read, keep accounts, and travel in unfamiliar places, thus substantially compromising quality of life. The cost of vision loss, including direct costs and lost productivity, is estimated to exceed $35 billion (Rein, Zhang, Wirth, et al., 2006)
Learn more about the West Virginia Diabetes Prevention and Control Program
Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a type of diabetes that develops or is first recognized during pregnancy and increases the risk in the woman or her baby for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. GDM places the baby at risk for becoming overweight or obese in childhood, also increasing their risk for type 2 diabetes.
A Change for Life, a new 5-minute video from CDC, shows how lifestyle change classes are helping people with prediabetes, including women who had GDM, prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Women and Eye Health
Vision loss and blindness are major public health problems causing a substantial human and economic toll on individuals and society. It leads to increased social isolation, loss of productivity, and diminished quality of life. In the US, of the 3.4 million who are blind or visually impaired, 2.3 million are women. Worldwide, women are more affected than men by vision loss, blindness, and some eye diseases. An analysis of more than 70 population-based studies worldwide showed that two thirds of all visually impaired or blind people are women; approximately 75% of all blindness or visual impairment is either preventable or treatable.
For additional information on women’s eye health, see these resources:
1) Abou-Gareeb I, Lewallen S, Bassett K, and Courtright P. Gender and blindness: a meta-analysis of population-based prevalence surveys. Ophthal Epidem. 2001; 8:39-56.
2) National Eye Institute, NIH
3) The State of Vision, Aging, and Public Health in America (PDF), CDC
Dating Matters™: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships
CDC conducted a survey that showed 1 in 10 high school students were hit or physically hurt by someone they dated in the past year.
Dating violence can cause harm not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. It can lead to depression, drug or alcohol use, and failure at school. Dating violence may begin as early as middle school and worsen in high school so middle school is the best time to work to prevent it—before it can start and grow worse.
HIV among Women
Men who have sex with men continue to be the group most affected by HIV/AIDS; however, women are affected as well. In 2009, there were an estimated 11,200 new HIV infections among women in the U.S. That year, women comprised 51% of the US population and 23% of those newly infected with HIV. Of the total number of new HIV infections in U.S. women in 2009, 57% occurred in blacks, 21% were in whites, and 16% were in Hispanics/Latinas. In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women, and over three times the rate among Hispanic/Latina women. CDC developed Take Charge. Take the Test. (TCTT), a phase of the Act Against AIDS campaign designed to increase HIV testing among African American women aged 18–34.
Chlamydia Screening of All Sexually Active Women 25 and Under
Chlamydia and gonorrhea are preventable causes of infertility in women. Untreated, about 10-15% of women with chlamydia will develop pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. An estimated 2.8 million cases of chlamydia and 718,000 cases of gonorrhea occur annually in the United States. Most women infected with chlamydia or gonorrhea have no symptoms.
CDC recommends annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active females 25 and under and for women older than 25 with risk factors such as a new sex partner or multiple partners. Chlamydia screening for women is a USPSTF A-rated clinical preventive service, and health insurance plans must cover this service without co-payment.
Youth-Sexual Behaviors that Contribute to Unintended Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Including HIV Infection
The national Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) monitors priority health risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. The national YRBS is conducted every two years during the spring and provides data representative of 9th through 12th grade students in public and private schools throughout the United States.
- After a decline from 1990 to 2004, the percentage of U.S. births that occurred at home increased by 29%, from 0.56% of births in 2004 to 0.72% in 2009.
- Females were 2½ times as likely as males to take antidepressants.
- Overall, 40% of females and 20% of males with severe depressive symptoms take antidepressant medication.
- Of three generations of women born in 1910, 1935, and 1960, those born in 1935 had the most children, on average 3.0 children per woman; and those born in 1960 had the fewest, 2.0.
- Women born in 1910 were equally likely to have no, one, or two children, approximately 22 percent each.
- Among adults aged 18 and over, women were more likely than men to have used the Internet for health information.
- The birth rate for U.S. teenagers fell in 2009 to the lowest level ever reported.
- Recent declines in teenage birth rates have occurred for younger and older teenagers.
National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey
According to CDC’s new National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) survey, 12 million women and men—24 people per minute—are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States. More than one million women reported being raped in a year and over six million women and men were victims of stalking. The NISVS is one of CDC′s public health surveillance systems designed to better describe and monitor the magnitude of sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence victimization in the U.S. It is the first survey of its kind to provide simultaneous national and state-level prevalence estimates of violence for all states. Launched in 2010, NISVS also provides data on several types of violence that have not previously been measured in a national population-based survey.
The report findings underscore violence as a major public health burden and demonstrate how violence can have impacts that last a lifetime, including findings that female victims of violence had a significantly higher prevalence of long-term health problems. Visit the NISVS website for more information, including the executive summary and study details.
Did You Know
Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States. Most types of arthritis are more common in women; 60% of all people with arthritis are women. Early diagnosis and appropriate management of arthritis, including self-management activities, can help people with arthritis decrease pain, improve function, stay productive, and lower health care costs.
Falls among Older Adults
Each year, one in every three adults age 65 and older falls. Falls can cause moderate to severe injuries, such as hip fractures and head traumas, and can increase the risk of early death. Women are more likely than men to be injured in a fall. In 2009, women were 58% more likely than men to suffer a nonfatal fall injury. Rates of fall-related fractures among older women are more than twice those for men. Older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling.
About 90% of women who get ovarian cancer are older than 40 years of age, with the greatest number of cases occurring in women aged 60 years or older. Among women in the United States, ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer. When ovarian cancer is found in its early stages, treatment is most effective. Women should ppay attention to their body, and know what is normal for them. If they notice any changes in their body that are not normal for them, they should talk to their doctor and ask about possible causes, such as ovarian cancer.
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