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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the WISEWOMAN Program

Wisewoman FAQs.

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What is a WISEWOMAN?

A WISEWOMAN takes care of her health. She also knows that half of all women may develop heart disease and takes steps to keep her heart healthy. This includes having her blood pressure and blood cholesterol checked, watching what she eats, being physically active or exercising, and choosing not to smoke.

WISEWOMAN stands for Well–Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation.

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What makes WISEWOMAN unique?

Many health programs include testing for cholesterol, diabetes, and blood pressure, but not all provide lifestyle education or testing at no or low cost—WISEWOMAN does. Through WISEWOMAN, qualified women receive testing and may receive educational programs that help women lower their risk for heart disease. These programs help women adopt healthy eating patterns and encourage women to be more physically active. Classes, quitlines, and counseling to help women deal with stress or quit smoking are offered. WISEWOMAN aims to help women know their risk for heart disease and develop a heart healthy lifestyle.

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Why should I join the WISEWOMAN program?

Heart disease is a major health problem for women. In 2005, heart disease claimed the lives of more women than all forms of cancer combined, according to the American Heart Association. More women than men will die within 1 year after a heart attack. Heart disease and stroke are big problems among minority women. More women than men die of stroke each year. WISEWOMAN offers services to prevent heart disease and other major health problems, including diabetes and weight gain.

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How can I join the WISEWOMAN program? Is it available in my state?

Contact the WISEWOMAN program in your state. If your state is not listed, a WISEWOMAN program is not offered in your state.

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Who can join the WISEWOMAN program?

Women with a low income who are between the ages of 40–64 and are enrolled in the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) are qualified for WISEWOMAN. Some programs see women younger than 40, so if you are younger than 40, check with the program in your state to see if you are eligible to join.

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Does the CDC WISEWOMAN program participate in community or organizational health fairs?

Unfortunately, no. The CDC WISEWOMAN program staff does not participate in community or organizational health fairs. Many of our state or tribal programs either hold or participate in community health fairs in an effort to recruit women for the program. However, the CDC WISEWOMAN program staff does provide program information materials for health fairs and any other health information function.

If you are interested in receiving WISEWOMAN program information materials (i.e. brochures), click on the submit a question link and fill out the online form and someone will respond to your request as soon as they can.

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Who benefits from WISEWOMAN services?

Many women benefit from WISEWOMAN services. WISEWOMAN aims to identify a woman's risk for heart disease through blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol testing. Then, a health care provider informs the woman of her heart disease risk by explaining the results. Once a woman knows her risk level, she is able to reduce her risk factors for heart disease through lifestyle change classes and activities. Preventing heart disease, the number one killer of women, saves women's lives.

Friends or family of women who take part in WISEWOMAN also benefit. Women who are heart healthy live longer, happier lives and are able to enjoy the company of their friends and family—without the bother of heart disease. Since low or no cost services are provided, these women and their families can save money. State health departments or health care providers also save money because these services are partially paid for through the WISEWOMAN program.

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Is there a cost involved?

WISEWOMAN funds pay for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol testing at WISEWOMAN program sites or locations. Extra testing is provided at low or no cost, based upon each program's available services. Women who are tested and found to have very high blood pressure, diabetes, or very high cholesterol are referred for needed services. Sometimes these services are paid for. Contact the program in your state for more information.

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How did the WISEWOMAN program start? When?

Congress established The National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) in 1991. In 1993, Congress allowed CDC to set up WISEWOMAN as a demonstration program within NBCCEDP to see if it was practical to offer additional preventive services. CDC funded three WISEWOMAN demonstration programs in 1995. As of 2008, CDC funds 21 WISEWOMAN programs across the country.

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What is the relationship between the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program (NBCCEDP) and WISEWOMAN? What is the difference between NBCCEDP and WISEWOMAN programs?

The NBCCEDP and WISEWOMAN programs were born at different times from the same "parent" (the same public health act) and are considered "sister" programs.

This chart shows the difference between the two programs:

TopicWISEWOMANNBCCEDP
Focus of ProgramRisk reduction counseling, lifestyle programs and other healthy behavior support options to improve control of hypertension and other CVD risk factors.Early detection of breast and cervical cancer; Population based approaches to improve systems that increase high quality breast and cervical cancer screening and management consistent with current guidelines.
Services Provided
  • Heart disease and stroke risk factor screening, which include assessment of blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, BMI, and personal medical history.
  • Health risk assessments.
  • Risk reduction counseling.
  • Referrals for women with abnormal screening values to health care providers for medical evaluation and management of condition(s).
  • Follow-up for uncontrolled hypertension.
  • Link participants to free or low-cost medication resources.
  • Referrals to lifestyle programs and other healthy behavior support options.

 

  • Cancer screening, which includes clinical breast exam, pap test, and screening mammography.
  • Diagnostic tests to follow-up abnormal screening.
  • Referrals for eligible women with abnormal or suspicious diagnostic test results to the state Medicaid program for treatment; for women not eligible for Medicaid, identify and refer to pro bono sources of treatment.

 

Where Clinical Services are Provided
  • Health care providers must be recruited from those offering NBCCEDP screening services.
  • Health care facilities that employ clinical systems of care with demonstrated success in hypertension management.
  • Providers must have staff skilled in providing patient-centered risk reduction counseling.
  • Health care providers are recruited to offer regular pelvic, pap and clinical breast exam screening tests and procedures.
  • Providers must be willing to coordinate the care of women enrolled in the program from screening and clinical follow-up to a final diagnosis.
  • Mammography facilities and clinical laboratories are recruited to provide services.
Year First State/Tribal Health Agency was Funded19951990
Targeted Age Group40-64 year old women enrolled in the State/Tribal BCCEDP.

Cervical cancer screening: 21-64 year old women; priority population is women rarely/never screened.

Mammography: 40-64 year old women; priority population is 50-64 year old women.

Number of Grantees20 State and 2 Tribal Organizations50 States, DC, 5 Territories, and 11 Tribal Organizations
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What interventions are used in WISEWOMAN programs?

A description of WISEWOMAN materials that are designed specifically for participants are available. These include guides on how to make better choices for healthy living. Healthy eating information includes recipes, food buying and cooking tips. Information on safe and easy ways to be more active and fit is also shared.

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What information is gathered and how is it used?

Screening tests are done by the health care provider each year and include blood pressure, glucose (to test for diabetes) and cholesterol. The results from each yearly screening visit are reviewed by the health care provider and reported to the CDC to show if the risk factors improve or change. Women also answer questions to show if they have made changes in healthy eating, physical activity levels, and smoking as a result of participating in WISEWOMAN sessions.

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How are WISEWOMAN programs implemented?

Services are provided in different sites in the community including local health departments, doctor’s offices, and community health centers. Women are able to get their cholesterol, glucose (for diabetes), and blood pressure tested and receive educational materials or counseling to help them improve their lifestyle behaviors.

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What programs currently exist?

Currently, 22 programs exist in the United States.

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Are there plans in the future to expand WISEWOMAN to additional states, tribal organizations, or U.S. territories?

CDC currently funds 20 states and two tribal organizations. The success of the WISEWOMAN program has been documented in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Women's Health. The program continues to make significant progress towards eliminating health disparities and responding to the preventive health care needs of low-income women. Expansion plans for the WISEWOMAN program are contingent upon additional Congressional funding.

Authorizing and Related Legislation

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Where can I find scientific publications on WISEWOMAN?

See Publications for a list of publication references.

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