A BLOG BY SHANNON FISHER
National Women’s Health Week (NWHW), led by the Office on Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is an annual awareness campaign designed to encourage women to make their health a priority. This celebration of women’s wellness begins May 10th, Mother’s Day, and goes through May 16, 2015.
One of the main goals of NWHW is to give women the tools to understand how to live happy, healthy lives. The timing is very appropriate; on Mother’s Day, we focus on the love we have for our mothers and children. We clearly want them to be healthy and vibrant, but we sometimes don’t stop to think about our own health and vitality. We can’t be strong for our loved ones, nor can we fully be present to enjoy our time with them if our health is suffering. Also, don’t forget it was the female reproductive system that enabled our birth (and motherhood)! The importance of keeping our bodies running smoothly can’t be overstated.
Thankfully, it is within our power to maximize our chances of having a strong body and mind. We can lower our risk for anything that isn’t genetic – and even for many things that are. Overscheduled and electronically-tethered modern lives, both personal and pro-fessional, often leave us feeling as if the world will collapse if we don’t maintain constant momentum. In all likelihood, we will eventually crash if we do. We have to stop once in a while to assess whether we’re being as good to our bodies as we are able, and doctors need to screen us for things we might not be able to detect ourselves.
To younger women, screenings and healthy lifestyles seem like an option, but they are an absolute necessity to maintain continued good health as we grow older. While we can’t turn back time to retroactively take care of our bodies, we can start right now – at any age – to become our healthiest possible selves. The Office on Women’s Health has detailed on their website what women can do at any age to improve their health, including what screenings should begin at what age. Some universal tools to better health (this should be a refresher course, but sometimes we need a nudge) are being more physically active, eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough sleep, managing stress, avoiding smoking, and avoiding unnecessary injuries by taking common-sense safety precautions.
In any endeavor, we empower ourselves with two things: gaining knowledge and taking action. The OWH is gladly offering both during National Women’s Health Week. They offer detailed information on every aspect of women’s health on their website, and during NWHW they are prompting women to take action by deeming Monday, May 11 “National Women’s Checkup Day,” during which women are urged to take a moment to schedule their annual visit to the doctor. We must add making appointments for our annual wellness screenings, and keeping them, to our long “to do” lists. While it feels like a chore, it is less of a chore than treating a cancer that wasn’t detected because you kept postponing your appointment. Just saying.
If you’d like to hear more detailed information about women’s health and wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Nancy Lee, the Director of the Office on Women’s Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, on my radio show. She shared some excellent information about National Women’ Health Week and women’s health in general. You can listen to the podcast of that interview here.
There are several ways you can help raise awareness of National Women’s Health Week. On Twitter, use and follow the #NWHW hashtag and follow the Office of Women’s Health. Another Twitter tool is the NWHW thunderclap. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the thunderclap, it is a universal tweet about a particular topic that is sent by a large number of accounts at the same time (in this case, on May 11), which can often make a topic “trend.” That trending draws attention to the subject from those who would likely not otherwise encounter it, so if you want to participate in the NWHW thunderclap, it is simple and requires just a few clicks to join.
Women’s empowerment comes in many forms. In addition to the political, social, and professional goals we set for ourselves as women – individually and collectively – we need to take better care of ourselves and make our health a priority. Internal physical and emotional strength are the building blocks of success and vitality. Join the Office of Women’s Health in celebrating women’s wellness and take whatever steps you can to thrive. It certainly beats the alternative.