Photo by Katherine Hanlon

This past Mother’s Day launched the 21st annual National Women’s Health Week. Led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the goal is to empower women to make their health a priority and raise awareness of the steps one can take to improve their health .

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends many common measures, such as proper health screenings, staying physically active, eating healthy, and promoting other healthy behaviors. Healthy behaviors include getting enough sleep, being tobacco-free, washing your hands, not texting while driving, and wearing a seatbelt, a bicycle helmet, and sunscreen when appropriate. The Office on Women’s Health website has specific suggestions for women through their 20s to their 90s.

Women can face difficulty accessing healthcare depending on where in the country they are, being believed or taken

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Vaccines are a vital part of healthcare at all stages of life and offer the best protection available against many potentially devastating illnesses. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages parents to follow an immunization schedule for babies and young children, protecting them from fourteen life-affecting diseases. Pre-teens and teenagers should begin to inoculate against meningococcal diseases (meningitis or septicemia) and HPV (Human Papillomavirus, which can lead to cancer). Adults should continue to protect themselves with a yearly flu shot, tetanus updates, and later in life the shingles and pneumonia vaccines.

An important element of immunization awareness is to protect our populations through “herd immunity” — when a high percentage of a population has immunity against a contagious disease either from vaccination or having the disease that they protect individuals who have not developed an immunity. Babies are protected by their mother’s immune

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA) individuals are members of every community. They are diverse, come from all walks of life, and include people of all races and ethnicities, all ages, all socioeconomic statuses, and from all parts of the country. The healthcare needs of LGBTQIA people are sometimes unique and often overlooked, contributing to health disparities experienced by vulnerable populations.

Experts report that LGBTQIA people often avoid seeking out medical care or refrain from “coming out” to their healthcare provider. This compromises an entire community of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals who are at increased risk for several health threats when compared to heterosexual or cisgender peer groups: Gay men are at higher risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections; lesbians are less likely

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Transgender Pride Flag

Transgender Awareness Week falls between November 13-19 every year and is meant to help raise visibility of a vulnerable and underserved community.  ‘Transgender’ is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity is different from the sex assigned at birth; ‘gender identity’ is one’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither.

Transgender/gender non-conforming people experience gender dysphoria, a clinically significant distress recognized by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) caused by a person’s assigned birth gender differing from the one with which they identify. This leads to increased depression among the transgender community, which can be exacerbated by being rejected by family and friends, abuse/violence, or experiencing discrimination. Gender-affirming operations have shown to yield long-term mental health benefits for transgender people.

Transgender and gender-nonconforming people can face significant problems with accessing health care. Finding a healthcare provider who is

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