Women's Health and Wellness
Women’s health refers to the branch of medicine that focuses on the treatment and diagnosis of diseases and conditions that affect a women’s physical and emotional well-being, and includes, but is by no means limited to:
- Violence against women
- Women’s mental health
- Maternal health
- Breast and cervical cancer
Of the systemic shortcomings exacerbated and revealed by the COVID-19 pandemic, women’s health has proven to be especially affected. Reduced access to healthcare facilities, specifically for maternal health, and breast and cervical cancer have further contributed to diminished wellbeing.
We hope to shine light on some of the lesser known issues that women are especially vulnerable to, by uplifting their voices, support their holistic wellbeing, and promoting greater access to critical services.
Violence Against Women
Violence against women is experienced physically and sexually, from both people the victims know, and people they don’t. Globally, nearly one in three women under 50 have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, and Texas is no exemption. In 2015, 158 women were killed by an intimate partner in Texas.
One every 2.3 days.
These attacks don’t just cause physical trauma—many victims also suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. As violence or threat of violence causes them to miss work or lose jobs, many victims also suffer economic loss. In despair, many victims turn, at least temporarily, to drugs or alcohol to cope. Similarly, children who witness or are victims of family violence may experience adverse effects such as increased anger or fear and an inability to sleep. Long-term, they are at an increased risk of suicide and reduced social and academic skills.
Presented with this data, it’s no wonder that both family violence and violence against women present a large risk to women’s short- and long-term health.
Due to a variety of social, economic and biological factors, evidence suggests that women are more likely to experience anxiety, depression and somatic complaints – physical symptoms that cannot be explained medically. These factors include, but are not limited to, violence against women and post-partum depression.
Postpartum depression is described as a depression suffered by a mother following childbirth, typically arising from the combination of hormonal changes, psychological adjustment to motherhood, and fatigue, including symptoms such as insomnia, loss of appetite, intense irritability, and difficulty bonding with a baby. It is incredibly common, with more than 3 million cases in the United States each year.
Independent to clearly causal illnesses, like postpartum depression, women also experience general disorders much more frequently than men, with the prevalence of serious mental illness being 70% greater in women than in men. For example, women are twice as likely as men to be impacted by Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It is for this reason that we must both give women the confidence to seek imperative assistance and provide proper resources to best maintain their mental health.
Although many women are benefiting from improvements in maternal care introduced in the last century, these benefits have not served women universally. In 2013, almost 300,000 women worldwide died from preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth.
The United States is no exception to the global average, with the country falling far behind most developed nations in preventing pregnancy-related deaths.
The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the U.S. remains about 17 deaths per 100,000 live births, which only inflates when considering Black mothers. Black women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth.
American Indian and Alaskan Native women experience notable disparities as well. Together, they have approximately twice as many pregnancy-related deaths per 100,000 live births.
Factors that likely contribute to this are the fact that women of color tend to have decreased access to high-quality reproductive health information and services. Maternal mortality rates are also strongly tied to socioeconomic status and geography. Women living in poverty and women in certain states experience significantly higher MMRs than the national average.
Breast and Cervical Cancer
Globally, breast cancer is the most common type of cancer, followed closely by cervical cancer–collectively resulting in nearly 44,000 deaths in the United States per year. The key to increasing chances of survival is early detection. In fact, the vast majority of these deaths can be directly correlated to a lack of screening, prevention, and treatment.
Organizations, like the American Cancer Society of the Cancer Action Network, are working to increase funding for breast and cervical cancer research that could lead to new medical breakthroughs and save more lives. Similarly, Texas Representative King is proposing a bill to expand health benefit plan coverage for ovarian cancer testing and screening, which would be a great step in mitigating the development of critical stages of cancer. These actions will hopefully decrease the number of deaths attributed to a lack of preventative care.
Policies in Progress
We believe a legislative approach will provide the most far-reaching and effective improvements by creating state-wide standards and initiatives. We are gathering stakeholder support for the following state bills introduced in the current legislative session, and we believe they not only have broad-based bipartisan support, but are effective in promoting the health and wellness of all women.
Learn more about the situation of women’s health from different perspectives with these three videos.