The Department of Health and Human Services, in conjunction with the Office on Women’s Health, Office of the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has announced a Call To Action on Breastfeeding, in which it is asking for comments from individuals and organizations about breastfeeding promoting policies and activities. According to the group,
“Breastfeeding is unquestionably healthier for mothers and babies compared to feeding with infant formula.
We are especially interested in new ideas that will increase equity in breastfeeding rates among all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Ideas should build on programs and policies that are recognized to be effective or evidence-based. In addition, we welcome suggestions to adopt, expand, implement, research, or improve existing strategies.”
12 topic areas have been created for individuals to submit comments.
- Maternal and Infant Care Practices: Prenatal, Hospital, and Post-Delivery Care
- Access to Lactation Care and Support
- Health Professional Education, Publications, and Conferences
- Use of Banked Human Milk
- Work-site Lactation Support, On-site Child Care, and Milk Expression
- Paid Maternity Leave
- Portrayal of Breastfeeding in Traditional Popular Media and New Electronic Media
- Support for Breastfeeding in Public Settings
- Peer Support and Education of Family Members and Friends
- Community Support for Breastfeeding in Complementary Programs (e.g., Early Head Start, Home Visitation, Parental Training)
- Research and Surveillance
- Other Areas
Submit your comments and recommendations before the May 31st, 2009 deadline.
President Obama’s health care plan that offers options similar to that of Medicare could save Americans up to 30% on their health care premiums costs. According to MoveOn.org:
- Health care costs are spiraling out of control. From 2000 to 2008, health insurance premiums increased five times faster than wages.
- A public health insurance option would provide an affordable, quality alternative. Two new studies show that Americans could save 25% or more off of a traditional private plan. The New York Times says this would “keep the private plans honest.” They’ll have to lower rates and offer better value to compete.
- Plus, a public health insurance option would be reliable coverage for all. Private insurers are notorious for dumping people with little notice. A public option would allow consumers who’ve been dropped—or just don’t like their current coverage—to switch to a steady public choice.
Join MoveOn.org and other health advocates and send a message to Congress, telling them how you could use the 30% savings.
According to The National Partnership for Women and Families , Texas has the third highest teen birth rate in the nation — 50% higher than the national average, yet 94% of Texan students receive abstinence-only sex education. Texas is also the nation’s largest recipient of abstinence-only funds, totaling more than $18 million.
Texas state Rep. Joaquin Castro (D), vice chair of the Texas House Committee on Higher Education, expressed his feelings on the subject in an opinion piece written for San Antonio Express News. Castro mentioned that teen pregnancy can lead to high drop-out rates; 60 % of mothers who have a child before they turn 18 do not graduate from high school. According to Castro, “Texas students need a complete, medically-accurate and age-appropriate sex education curriculum. And, if parents desire, they can opt-out their children from receiving any type sexual education curriculum.”
House Bill 741 has been introduced in the Texan Legislature, a measure that would continue to provide abstinence education, but also information related to birth control and protection from sexually transmitted infections.
On April 13th, 2009, Raising Women’s Voices hosted the NYC regional meeting of Health Care for America Now. The event was attended by advocates from various organizations committed to health reform, including Committee of Interns and Resident/SEIU Healthcare, Metro NY Health Care for All, ACORN, AFL-CIO, 1199 SEIU, Children’s Defense Fund of NY, Make the Road NY, MoveOn.org, Nation Physicians Alliance, New York Immigration Coalition, Community Service Society, Communication Workers of America, New Yorker’s for Fiscal Fairness and others.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, pictured with Raising Women’s Voices co-founder Lois Uttely, was also in attendance. The Senator had the opportunity to listen to the personal stories of several constituents who struggled to access and pay for comprehensive health care, before addressing the meeting with her reactions and commitment to health care reform. One woman from NYC for Change shared her story about being diagnosed with cancer over ten years ago, and the struggles she has had to face. Speaking directly to the Senator, she shared her personal feeling that fighting the insurance companies is harder than fighting her cancer.
In response to the stories shared and the advocates present, Senator Gillibrand has voiced her commitment HCAN’s Core Principles by:
- Pushing for a Medicare-for-all public plan
- Supporting the budget reconciliation process in the Senate that would require majority vote for health reform
- Supporting programs, such as S-CHIP, that remove the 5 year waiting period that legal immigrants must meet for eligibility requirements
Click here for a list of the 185 Congressional members that support HCAN’s core principles, (including President Obama).
Over 125 women and health advocates came together on April 1st, 2009 to participate in the National Women’s Speak-Out for Health Reform. Free and open to the public, women shared their personal stories and experiences with the health care system. Issues raised included affordability and access to care, the occurrence of high medical debt, being uninsured and under-insured, experiencing language barriers and the lack of cultural competency. Women shared stories about not being able to access coverage due to ‘pre-existing conditions’ and the difficulty in navigating the medical and insurance system, as well as the public assistance programs.
In addition to the Speak-Out, workshops were held with speakers and moderators from various health and policy organizations, including the National Women’s Health Network, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, National Health Law Program, Families USA, Health Care for America NOW!, the Boston Women’s Health Collective, the National Council of La Raza, the National Latina Institutefor Reproductive Health, and many more. Participants had the opportunity to learn how to listen and elicit stories, addressing how to remain accountable and ethical when gathering and sharing those stories. An entire workshop was devoted to learning about various multi-media options and new technologies available to advocates for reaching out to broader bases of supporters. Health policy experts from the state and national levels also shared some strategies to address the some of the challenges that lie ahead in the debate on health care reform.
What were some of the take-away lessons? Be bold and raise your voice! Talk with members of your community, post information on blogs and networking sites. Contact elected officials, at all levels of government, by phone or schedule a visit. Discuss with them proposed legislation that will affect members of your community, as well as past legislation that contributes to health disparities, such as the Hyde Amendment. Organize your own speak-out using our guide (available on the RWV website). Bring all the voices to the table: we may be women, but we are also teenagers, seniors, mothers, immigrants, survivors of abuse, cancer and many other illnesses, people with disabilities, members of various religious, ethnic, racial and sexual backgrounds. Together, we can achieve health care for all.
Visit the Raising Women’s Voices website for video, pictures and transcripts from the event….coming soon!
“When I withdrew from consideration to be secretary of health and human services, some pundits said health reform had received a devastating blow. While it would be flattering for me to believe that, it would also be completely wrong…the biggest error those pundits made was in thinking that the debate over health-care reform would be decided by who occupies certain positions in Washington. It won’t. It will be decided by the American people. And at the Forum on Health Reform, those voices were finally heard,” says former HHS Nominee Thomas Daschle.
The former South Dakota Senator reports that while it may be flattering to hear that his withdrawal is a serious blow to health care reform in this country, he believes that there are many advocates and reformers in Washington that are able to achieve change. Furthermore, Daschle notes that with a President who believes “Health-care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year” , a committed HHS nominee Gov. Kathleen Sebelius , White House Office of Health Reform head Nancy-Ann Min DeParle, Republicans who support health reform and allies from the pharmaceutical lobbyists, not to mention the thousands of Americans who have already voiced their concerns, health reform has many staunch supporters.
When searching for an individual health policy, women will find that they are often charged more than men, even if they are within the same age and health bracket. Why? According to the insurance companies it’s because women use the health care system and its services more than men.
One report quotes Mark Wright of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida says, “Among other things, women stay current on annual screenings, which tends to lead to better future health.” The Florida Legislature is considering a bill that would end the gender-rating associated with health care policies.
President Obama has pledged over $630 billion dollars towards Health Care Reform and he wants someone who “knows health care in and out”. On Monday March 2nd, 2009, Obama nominated Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat Governor from Kansas, as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to replace former nominee Senator Tom Daschle, who withdrew his nomination a month ago.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sebelius will have plenty of work ahead of her. The HHS has over 67,000 employees , and includes the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, and the National Institutes of Health.
As the numbers of uninsured rise, the cost of health care grows and access remains limited, Senators call for urgent action on health care reform this year.
Although the health reform effort no longer has Tom Daschle, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) have conveyed to President Obama that they remain committed to the cause. Both Senators noted that it a ‘moral duty’ to provide all Americans with health care and contain the escalating costs of that care. Baucus and Kennedy are pushing for health care reform in 2009, while others believe that the likelihood of such reform may not occur until 2010 or later.