Women’s Health Care Ignored From the Waist Down

When it comes to health care, who would deny that prevention is preferable to treatment? I’m right there when public health recommendations include tobacco-free living, a reduction in alcohol and drug abuse and healthy eating. So I’m behind the president’s National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, which he established in June. The council developed a national prevention, health promotion and public health strategy, complete with recommendations [PDF] that “provides an unprecedented opportunity to shift the nation from a focus on sickness and disease to one based on wellness and prevention.”

But guess what’s missing? Any mention of reproductive health care, aside from HIV/AIDS and eliminating health disparities based on gender. There’s nothing about prevention of unwanted pregnancies. Nothing.

I wasn’t surprised, though. “We have a ‘waist up wellness’ model that seems timid about even mentioning sex,” said Lon Newman, Executive Director of Family Planning Health Services in Wisconsin.

Yet sexual health is an important component of overall health and should be included in this important national strategy. Newman suggested we ask for a seventh (there are already six) strategic direction: Sexual Health and Well-being. The council is taking comments from the public until January 13–this Thursday–so I clicked on the site to offer my comment.

I was taken aback at the level of detail I was asked to provide for my suggestion. I’m not a health-care professional. I’m a citizen with a specific suggestion for the inclusion of reproductive health and the prevention of pregnancies and STDs. Once I got past “1. What are your suggestions on the Draft Vision, Goals, Strategic Directions, or Recommendations?” I was at a loss to describe what evidence-based actions the government should take and how the progress would be monitored. Not my field of expertise, I told Newman.

“Suggest that a seventh targeted strategic direction be added to the plan,” said Newman. “The council will take it from there.” He also suggested contacting the White House through their comment system.

Please make that point and offer your suggestion today. It only takes a minute to click and suggest in Box 1: “Add a seventh strategic direction: Sexual Health and Wellness.” If this National Prevention Strategy does present us with an “unprecedented opportunity to improve the nation’s health through prevention,” then women’s health from the waist down should certainly be included.

Photo from Flickr user idhren under Creative Commons 3.0


Not the singer/songwriter Carole King. Been a feminist for as long as I can remember and committed to reproductive rights even longer.