National Women’s Health Week runs through May 18 and is working to shed light on this historically neglected population. Designed to draw attention to the specific health care needs of women, organizers want to focus on not just physical health but mental health and environmental safety, promoting healthy eating, exercise, and preventive screenings to form a holistic approach.
First announced in 2012 by President Barack Obama as part of a broader initiative to improve women’s health, the week is spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health.
A lack of proactivity
There are a few areas in which women tend to neglect their personal health. These include:
- Preventive screenings, particularly with tests like mammograms and pap smears;
- Preventive medicine, like immunizations;
- Mental health assessments and treatment of conditions like anxiety and depression;
- Early treatment of conditions that can prevent disease later, like diet along with medication if needed to control high cholesterol or diabetes.
The role of the nurse for women’s health
During National Women’s Health Week, nurses and nursing students at all levels can volunteer at public screening sites or community awareness rallies. They can also organize functions in their workplaces and communities.
On a more personal level, nurses are often on the front line of health care and can serve as advocates for preventive medicine. National Women’s Health Week is a good opportunity for nurses to remind their female patients to get checkups. Female nurses can also be role models, going for their own screenings and discussing the importance of such measures with patients, coworkers, friends, and family.
Not everything needed to improve women’s health happens in the office of a health care provider. It also occurs on an individual level. Women who choose to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, a healthy diet, proper sleep, and not smoking will need support to be successful. Nurses should be proactive in recognizing and encouraging women, not just in their direct care, but also those around them each day who need guidance or support as they work to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Erica Moss is the community manager for Georgetown University’s online nursing programs, offering one of the nation’s leading family nurse practitioner programs. She enjoys blogging, TV, pop culture and tweeting @ericajmoss.
Photo credit: MilitaryHealth on Flickr