Women’s Health: It’s not just about the Pill

Women’s health has been highly politicized this election cycle with both Democrats and Republicans attempting to reel in women voters by focusing on contentious issues such as reproductive health and contraceptives. Remarkably enough, outside of women’s reproductive wellbeing, we have seen sparse discussion on any other female-focused health concerns.
In the run up to election-day, a whopping $16.8 million was spent on abortion-related advertising. Meanwhile headlines on the debate surrounding mandated insurance coverage of contraceptives saturated newspapers’ front pages. Yet the media rarely treated voters to a thoughtful analysis of the health issues that disproportionately cause mortality and illness in American females: heart disease (25%), cancer (21%), stroke (7%), chronic lower respiratory diseases (6%), Alzheimer’s disease (5%).

At the expense of more dangerous and urgent women’s health issues, the media remained preoccupied with reproductive healthcare. This fixation created two key problems. First, by dwelling on the potential ramifications each candidate’s presidency would have on women’s reproductive health, the media neglected to analyze how either upholding or repealing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), popularly known as Obamacare, will impact healthcare delivery to women. For example, under the ACA, all new insurance plans must cover women’s preventative care without charging co-pays. In addition, millions of women will gain insurance coverage under the individual mandate of the ACA. Considering that a 2007 Commonwealth Fund report found that 52% of women reported problems accessing care because of cost and 45% of women had medical debt or had trouble paying bills, these two provisions should be a driving part of the conversation on women’s health. Second, the focus on a divisive issue like women’s reproductive health has stunted the conversation along party lines, preventing the discourse from reaching a bipartisan level.

Politicizing women’s health to win votes and sell papers creates a toxic environment that makes it nearly impossible to build a consensus on how to best provide health care for American women. All politics are local. Search online for your state legislature’s women’s health advisory committee and attend their meetings. Be a part of the conversation when your state decision makers discuss women’s health.

Khadija Gurnah, MPH, is a specialist on Medicaid Retention and Enrollment. She is the CEO and Founder of Zanoora Health Tech Solutions. She can be reached at kgurnah@zanoora.com.

This article is part of the “Election 2012 – American Muslims VOTE!” series, which is running on Altmuslim at Patheos, Altmuslimah, Illume, and Aziz Poonawalla’s news and politics blog on Patheos. Click on this special topics page to view all articles in this series and add your comments. Tweet your thoughts on this article, on the series, and on the 2012 elections at #MuslimVOTE.

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