Health & Empowerment
Legislative Chair: Senator Toni Boucher (CT)
NFWL's WOMEN'S HEALTH INITIATIVE
Healthcare has been at the forefront of policy discussions over the last decade and has nearly dominated the policy debate between Presidential and Congressional candidates leading up to and during the 2012 election cycle. While issue experts, policy makers, and healthcare professionals have put forth and/or implemented innovative healthcare solutions, there is still a void that needs to be addressed - the unmet needs of women.
The National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) has recognized a growing need to identify and implement innovative solutions that will improve the current and future health and wellness of women. The specific needs of women are not being met because their needs are not being separated and addressed uniquely within the current mechanisms of care available. NFWL is committed to ensuring that the dialogue centered on healthcare for women is not polarizing but rather inclusive and productive. This collaborative approach will enable elected women to be leaders in assuring that the unique needs of women are met as we move forward in the ever changing health policy environment&no matter who wins the election.
Women, on average, have a higher life expectancy than men. However, women are more likely than men to suffer from chronic diseases and are more likely to contract a number of fatal illnesses. For example, women have higher incidences of arthritis, asthma, and cancer than men. Women are also more likely than men to be severely obese, often resulting in limited mobility. Moreover, the unique physical make-up of women exposes them to diseases like osteoporosis and thyroid problems, which are relatively rare among men.
- WOMEN make approximately 80% of healthcare decisions for their families, which can often lead them to lose sight of their own medical needs.
- WOMEN are often the primary caretakers for aging parents, adding stress to their daily lives.
- WOMEN are more likely than men to have a condition, disability or chronic disease that requires ongoing treatment (e.g., arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, overactive bladder).
Focusing specifically on the unmet needs of women, there is an opportunity to increase access to care, promote preventative measures, raise awareness, and implement solutions like more research will not just improve the quality of life for women, but will also save lives.
So that our daughters and granddaughters will not have to worry about unmet health needs in the future, NFWL will focus on the current critical needs in women's health by:
- Encouraging dialogue and raising awareness.
- Convening thought leaders.
- Forming policy solutions that elected women from across the nation can bring to the table.
- Identifying specific needs within unique populations of women such as the elderly, veterans, and minorities.
- Improving access to and quality of care through the spreading of health information technology, highlighting the progress of advanced treatment protocols, and encourage more women's health research.
Specific areas of women's health to be addressed include urological disorders, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, menopause, mental and behavioral health, and maternity care.
Healthcare: Getting Back to Basics
Elected women across the nation hear from their constituents far too often that the healthcare system is too hard to navigate. It has become bound by layers that have been created by politics, public opinion and economics. When we peel away the layers and return to fundamentals, it is patients -- the healthcare consumers -- and what they expect and value from their care experience that defines value and quality. Understanding the drivers of patient satisfaction is one very important path to defining quality care.
During NFWL's most recent Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, attendees traveled to the nearby Cancer Treatment Centers of America's (CTCA) Southeastern Regional Medical Center, to learn firsthand why CTCA consistently earns high marks in patient satisfaction. CTCA's leaders and caregivers indicated that it begins simply with listening, to better understand how patients value every dimension of their treatment experience.