Category Archives: Women's Health Week

May 18 2012
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How a Personal Experience Led to a Program of Research Focused on Eliminating Intimate Partner Violence Disparities Among Hispanic Women

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13 to May 19 as National Women’s Health Week. It is designed to bring together communities, businesses, government, health organizations and others to promote women’s health. The goal in 2012 is to empower women to make their health a top priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog is launching an occasional series on women’s health in conjunction with the week. This post is by Rosa M. Gonzalez-Guarda, PhD, MPH, RN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nurse Faculty Scholar and Assistant Professor, University of Miami, School of Nursing & Health Studies.

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As a young Cuban-American and Miami native who grew up in an Hispanic enclave, I was naturally drawn to Hispanic men—short, dark and handsome. Who would have expected that I would have found him during my last year of college at Georgetown University in Washington, DC? I fell in love with this other Cuban-American Miami native quickly. He was fun, smart, charming, had strong family values and, to top it all off, he could dance salsa and merengue.

It was not too long before I realized that my college sweetheart was jealous and controlling. However, this did not seem all that unusual since these are characteristics that are endorsed by many in the culture where I come from. In fact, when I questioned that he was “allowed” to go out with his friends to bars, but I was not, some family and friends agreed with him. Although I did not realize it at the time, the “allowed” language and his controlling behavior were a good indicator of what lay ahead in our relationship—a nightmare.

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Moments of romance and bliss turned into moments of anger, aggression and torment. Times of peace grew shorter and shorter, as he grew increasingly emotionally abusive. He did some “man handling” too.

When I decided to go off to graduate school at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, things got worse. I was in another city and the co-chair of a social and cultural student committee. This made him feel like he was completely out of control and very jealous. He grew more aggressive and emotionally abusive. My family and friends became increasingly worried about me, as they saw my cheery personality slowly dwindle. My parents put a lot of pressure on me to break things off. I knew they were right, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I just needed time.

I thought that I could appease my family by getting help. I went to the school psychologist and when a faculty member at the School of Nursing looked for volunteers for a research study on teen dating violence, I quickly signed up. At that time, I had no idea that the Principal Investigator of the study was a world renowned violence researcher: who else but our very own Jacquelyn Campbell, PhD, RN, FAAN, who directs the RWJF Nurse Faculty Scholars program. Working on this study made me realize that I also wanted to conduct research on health disparities affecting my own community of Hispanic women at home. As I fell in love with the prospects of health disparities and violence research, I fell out of love with an abusive partner.

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May 15 2012
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A Nurse-Midwife and a PhD Candidate

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13 to May 19 as National Women’s Health Week. It is designed to bring together communities, businesses, government, health organizations and others to promote women’s health. The goal in 2012 is to empower women to make their health a top priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog is launching an occasional series on women’s health in conjunction with the week. This post is by Elisa L. Patterson, MS, CNM, a fellow with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico.

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I have been a certified nurse-midwife for almost 19 years. It is an ingrained part of who I am. I have served women of many different ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural backgrounds. Being a nurse-midwife embraces my duality of being a nurse and a midwife. I am very proud of these credentials.

As I add to my education in a PhD program – through the RWJF Nursing and Health Policy Collaborative at the University of New Mexico College of Nursing – I have found it a challenge to express in my “elevator speech” how these two credentials enhance my abilities to do policy work. I tried starting with what I am doing as a PhD student at the University of New Mexico. But when I say, “I’m also a nurse–midwife,” listeners seem to tag onto that singular piece of information and forget the rest of the conversation. Then, they might share their personal birth story or one that is a fond memory from a close friend. Or, they might ask me if I deliver babies at home.

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I have not been able to figure out how to combine the important and, to me, impressive fact that while, yes, I am a nurse-midwife, I am also very capable of conversing about, researching and representing many other issues.

The American College of Nurse-Midwives (ACNM) has a way to help me and other nurse-midwives who face this dilemma. Next month at their annual gathering, a public relations campaign will be presented to the membership. It will include a vision, mission statement, and core values. The ultimate goal is to describe the value of nurse-midwives and, in general, support the provision of high-quality maternity care and women’s health services by Certified Nurse-Midwives.

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May 14 2012
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Healthier Moms, Stronger Babies

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has designated May 13 to May 19 as National Women’s Health Week. It is designed to bring together communities, businesses, government, health organizations and others to promote women’s health. The goal in 2012 is to empower women to make their health a top priority. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Human Capital Blog is launching an occasional series on women’s health in conjunction with the week. This post is by Rebekah Gee, MD, MPH, RWJF Clinical Scholars alumna and an assistant professor of public health and obstetrics and gynecology at Louisiana State University (LSU). She is director of the Louisiana Birth Outcomes Initiative.

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Louisiana is a fantastic place to live. It’s one of the most culturally rich and enchanting places in the United States. The state, however, also faces some of the greatest challenges in our nation.

Louisiana has a long history of poverty, poor education, and social problems that affect the health of too many of its citizens. And for women—particularly African American women—the challenges are even greater. We are 49th in the nation in terms of overall birth outcomes, like infant prematurity and mortality, and we get failing grades on report cards that measure those indicators of health.

In 2010, Bruce Greenstein, Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH), recognized the importance of poor birth outcomes as a crucial public health issue—and named it his top priority. We were the first state in the nation to offer birth outcomes this kind of backing from our government officials. In November, 2010, we launched the Birth Outcomes Initiative, which I direct. It engages partners across the state—physicians, hospitals, clinics, nurses—and provides them with the best evidence and guiding principles to achieve change. We have made significant progress already.

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We are working with the state’s hospitals on maternity care quality improvements, including ending all medically unnecessary deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. We have partnered with 15 of the largest maternity hospitals to provide them with the support and resources to make this a reality. Now, every maternity hospital in the state (there are 58) has signed on to the 39-Week Initiative.

Soon, we will be publishing perinatal quality scores—available to the public—so hospitals and physicians are held accountable for outcomes. In our pioneer facilities, we have seen the rates of elective deliveries drop by half. Many facilities have had as much as a 30-percent drop in the number of babies who needed to go to the NICU. The efforts of the Birth Outcomes Initiative are improving lives day after day.

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