Sign Out: Empowering patients through education

December 1, 2005

From the Internet to salacious headlines in the mainstream media, consumers have never been so inundated with health-care information and advice. To truly empower women to take control of their health, we have to provide them with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. But we also need to make sure the information is credible.

I'm proud to hold the title of medical advisor to the National Women's Health Resource Center (NWHRC). If you are not familiar with this non-profit organization, the NWHRC is the country's leading independent health information source for women. The organization develops and distributes up-to-date and objective women's health information based on the latest advances in medical research and practice. Like me, NWHRC believes that informed women are healthier women.

NWHRC understands the barriers to good health and wellness that so many women face daily. The first annual NWHRC "Women Talk" survey was released earlier this year and found that women are not making the proper health-care decisions for themselves due to limited time, financial resources, and competing responsibilities. Basically, women are taking better care of their families than they are of themselves. NWHRC also found that even when women do make the time for a visit with their health-care provider, they go unprepared and lose an important opportunity to communicate about important health concerns.

NWHRC's recent programs and publications have addressed key issues in women's health.

"Are You At Risk for Spinal Fractures?" offers visitors to healthywomen.org an online quiz, warning women of the connection between osteoporosis and painful spinal fractures. The "Redefining Your Recovery" campaign helps women prepare for an upcoming surgery, such as a cesarean section, in order to optimize their recovery.

Finally, NWHRC is actively educating women about excessive menstrual bleeding. A recent survey conducted by NWHRC found that a majority of women (58%) with heavy menstrual bleeding accepted this monthly burden as something they simply had to live with. For the small number of women who have sought treatment, an overwhelming 82% initiated the dialogue with their health-care provider. The most unfortunate finding of the survey was that women waited up to 5 years before talking to their doctors about the condition, despite the fact that menorrhagia had severely affected their lives both personally and professionally.

NWHRC's work on menorrhagia emphasizes the need to help women understand that heavy bleeding is a REAL women's health concern, that there is a range of treatment options available, and that communication with a health-care provider is key.

I encourage you to invite your patients to visit the NWHRC's website at http://www.healthywomen.org/. I also hope you will take the time to browse the site and identify any publications or information that would be helpful to you, your staff, or patients.

As physicians, it is our responsibility to help our patients navigate the winding, and often times, bumpy health-care road. With a credible partner like the NWHRC, we can at least be sure that we are pointing our patients in the right direction.