The film Suffragette traces British women’s struggle for equal rights, up until 1928 when women over 21 finally got the vote (which occurred in 1920 in the U.S.). A lot has changed since then, but research on women’s health issues still lags behind.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) started to focus on women’s issues in 1991, when Dr. Bernadine Healy was the first female director, but a recent United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) report issued a finding titled, “Five Evidence Gaps in Women’s Health.” And a new report from the General Accounting Office is titled, “Better Oversight Needed to Help Ensure Continued Progress Including Women in Health Research.” It would appear that the research community may have lost some of that focus.

Those USPSTF-reported gaps exist because of a lack of research into how to screen women for intimate partner violence, illicit drug use and mental health conditions; thyroid abnormalities; vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis; cancer; and how to implement clinical preventive services. So here’s how you can take charge of your health in these areas:

  • If you’re the victim of partner violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799- SAFE (7233).
  • Seek support if you’re struggling with addiction (www.findtreatment.samhsa.gov) or mental health issues (MentalHealthAmerica.net/finding-help).
  • Ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for you to get blood tests to check for thyroid disease, vitamin D deficiency and glucose levels.
  • Arrange for a bone scan, especially if you’re postmenopausal.
  • Get an annual skin cancer check.
  • Ask about getting a mammogram, colonoscopy, PAP smear and other diagnostic cancer checks.
  • Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date.

As with all things related to your health, be sure to check with your doctor if you feel out of sorts or have questions. Together, you can make informed decisions about screening and preventive health measures you may be able to take.

March 15, 2017
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