National Women’s Health Week: Advocate for your health!

This week, May 13–19, marks the celebration of the 13th annual National Women’s Health Week. Initially, as I reflected upon the significance of this week, I felt uninspired. I realized I was disheartened and somewhat offended by the simplistic health messaging around National Women’s Health Week.

Looking at other Women’s Health Week resources, I found the same general health advice: eat healthy, exercise, seek routine preventive care, avoid unhealthy behaviors, and foster good mental health. Yes, these are all vital to maintaining health, but hasn’t almost everyone heard this advice at least 100 times? And shouldn’t people of all genders aim to practice these healthy behaviors? Of all the extremely important women’s health issues, this is what we focus on during a week dedicated to women’s health?

Many LBT women feel uncomfortable talking about their sexual orientation or gender identity, preventing them from getting the care they deserve.

I was ready to give up on this post when I was inspired by some simple words from my mother. She was a single mom who returned to college when my sisters and I were in elementary school. Despite having three daughters to raise alone, she managed to excel in school and eventually complete a graduate degree.

My mom is a fighter, and she fought for her health and the health of her children. She disagreed with healthcare providers if she was unsatisfied with their diagnosis or treatment plan. We lived in poverty, went through periods of being uninsured, and had limited access to competent healthcare providers. Yet, my mom always advocated for the best possible care. And, believe me, we got it.

I spoke to my mom a few days ago and we discussed some health problems she has been experiencing. She said to me, “Christina, why don’t doctors listen to their patients? I know my body better than anyone.” As we talked about her plans for seeking further care she told me that, “it always helps to be assertive.”

I was reminded why it’s important for all of us to participate in National Women’s Health week. This week is not just about knowing what behaviors lead to good health; it’s about empowering ourselves to be our own best health care advocates—especially as members of a traditionally marginalized (Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender) community.

This means:

  1. Taking responsibility for engaging in healthy behaviors;
  2. Being educated about the health issues that affect us;
  3. And not being afraid to fight for the healthcare we all deserve.

In celebration of National Women’s Health week, take a stand for your health! If you haven’t spoken to a medical or behavioral health care provider recently, make an appointment. Are you overdue for an HIV or STD test? Get one in honor of Women’s Health Week!

Be proactive about your health. Too often, we ignore our health and wellness needs until we are sick. Fenway offers these free services to help educate and support you, so you can be an active participant in your own health:

  • Wellness Coaching Free 30-minute, individual sessions with a health educator to learn about resources and goal setting for tobacco cessation, healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy sleep habits. For more information contact Tricia Dougherty at 617.927.6169 or pdougherty@fenwayhealth.org.
  • Take Charge Series A series of free, evening group sessions with a health educator to discuss topics related to tobacco cessation, healthy eating, physical activity, and healthy sleep habits. For more information, contact Tricia Dougherty at 617.927.6169 or pdougherty@fenwayhealth.org.
  • Contraception Counseling Free sessions with a contraception counselor to discuss contraceptive methods and explore options that work for you. To schedule an appointment, call 617.927.6000.

We also have the following research opportunities for women who want to help us better understand Women’s Health:

  • LifeSkills A 12 month research study that focuses on empowering young trans women to reduce sexual risk and improve their lives. You can learn more about this study by emailing lifeskills@fenwayhealth.org.
  • Vaginal Ring Study A study investigating the use of a medicated vaginal ring for HIV prevention.  More information is available by contacting Vince Pancucci at 617-927-6450 or vpancucci@fenwayhealth.org .

Happy National Women’s Health Week and in the words of my mother: know your body and be assertive!

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