Today is the International Day of Action for Women’s Health. This day has been celebrated every year since 1987. It is a time to reflect on the advancements made in securing women’s access to health — and to rally around the obstacles many women still face.
Here’s a look at three things to celebrate about women’s health in North Carolina, and three things to bemoan.
First, the things I love:
- Advancements in healthcare technology. Robotic surgery and lab on a chip technology may soon make it possible to bring top-notch health services to remote areas where women would otherwise not be able to access them. This could be good news not only overseas where healthcare is not available, but also here in the United States, where rural hospitals are struggling to keep costs down. New advancements may eventually mean better access, but we need to be vigilant in making sure that women are benefiting from these new technologies as they come down the pipeline.
- High rates of screenings for cervical and breast cancer. In a recent report from the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, 84% of women over 18 years of age reported having had a pap smear in the last three years and 77.2% of women over 40 years of age reported having had a mammogram in the last two years. Having pap smears and mammograms at the appropriate intervals is vital for early detection of cervical and breast cancer.
- 80% of pregnant women in North Carolina seek first trimester prenatal care. Prenatal care is another area where NC women are surpassing national goals in seeking preventative care. Early prenatal care is important for educating pregnant women on nutritional needs during pregnancy and evaluating for risks or complications that may need further attention.
And now, the things I hate:
- Negative lifestyle habits are prevalent in North Carolina. We are not eating enough vegetables or getting enough exercise, and we are smoking and drinking too much. As we know, each of these factors contributes to disease prevalence and outcomes. However, it is not up to individuals alone to combat these problems – our lawmakers need to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, healthy food and has the education necessary to make healthy choices. Stress and overwork, often brought on by negative workplace conditions, also play an undeniable role in causing women to smoke and drink in excess.
- Emotional distress takes a toll. As noted in a recent Women AdvaNCe post, women in NC report emotional or mental distress 4 days per month. With no policy mandating maternity leave and little to no help in finding and paying for quality childcare, it is no surprise that NC women experience this distress. NC women make only 83 cents for every dollar a man makes, and yes, we are still doing most of the housework.
- Reproductive rights are being meddled with more and more. It seems like every month there is something in the news about a new way that male lawmakers are seeking to impede women’s access to health care. In North Carolina, women face an unconstitutional requirement for an ultrasound when seeking an abortion. This is only one among a myriad of ways lawmakers are trying to control women’s choices.
Celebrate the International Day of Action for Women’s Health by spreading the word about these issues and telling your legislators what improvements you want to see. We deserve better.
Tiffany Frye manages a small but growing childcare and coworking cooperative and works as a managing editor for science publications. She lives in Durham, NC, with her husband and daughter.