In 2018 National Women’s Health Week is from May 13th to 19th. During this week “…millions of women take steps to improve their health. The week serves as a reminder for women to make their health a priority and build positive health habits for life…The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health leads National Women’s Health Week to encourage all women to be as healthy as possible.” (1)
Health Concerns for American Indian Women
Although there are not a lot of studies about American Indian and Alaska Native Elder women’s health, there was a study in 2002 that provided some concerning information stating, “Today we see an increase in alcoholism, divorce, mortality, suicide, depression, health behavior–related illness, oppression, and loss of identity and tribal traditions among American Indian women. McGrath et al. found that the health status and mental health status of American Indian women are generally worse than those of other women. Moreover, the suicide rate is twice as high among American Indians of both sexes as in the general American population. The death rates of Native American women are 2 to 6 times higher than those of other American women for alcoholism, liver disease, homicide, accidental death, and motor vehicle accidents.” (2) Even though these statistics were from 16 years ago, the information is still quite alarming and should continue to be a concern for American Indian women and their families.
This week we ask that all women and their families, especially our American Indian Elders, take time to start a real and open discussion about women’s health. Two ways that women and their families can start this discussion is by learning how you can improve your health and by participating in the events of this week.
Steps Women Can Take for Better Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide various steps women can take for better health:
- Get Recommended Screenings and Preventive Care – Protect your health by getting the care you need to prevent disease, disability, and injuries. Regular check-ups are important. Preventive care can keep disease away or detect problems early, when treatment is more effective. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about what screenings and exams you need and when.
- Get Moving – Physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health and has many benefits including lowering your risk for heart disease—the leading cause of death for women. One out of three older people falls each year and women fall more often than men. Strength and balance training can help reduce the chances for falls.
- Enjoy Healthy Foods – Nutrition is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. A healthy eating plan includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat free and low-fat milk and other dairy products, lean meats, and is low in salt, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars. Women need folic acid every day for the healthy new cells the body makes daily – like skin, hair, and nails. Two easy ways you can get enough folic acid is to take a vitamin that has folic acid in it every day or eat a bowl of breakfast cereal that has 100% of the daily value of folic acid every day. Also avoid drinking too much alcohol. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions and can lead to the development of chronic diseases.
- Prioritize Mental Health – Keep your mind and body healthy. Research shows that positive mental health is associated with improved health. Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, including mental health. It impacts how you feel and perform during the day. Also, don’t forget to find healthy ways to cope with stress.
- Practice Healthy Behaviors – Daily decisions influence overall health. Small actions can help keep you safe and healthy and set a good example for others. Some simple healthy behaviors you can practice include:
- Wear sunscreen and take steps to keep your skin beautiful
- Use prescription drugs only as directed by a health care provider
- Be smoke free (3)
An additional resource for steps all women can take to get healthy, based on age, can be found at https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw/by-age
Participate in National Women’s Health Week
If you are interested in participating in National Women’s Health Week, the Office on Women’s Health has a few great ideas for you:
- Learn what steps you can take for good health, no matter your age
- Take the National Women’s Health Week quiz to see how much you know about healthy living
- Show your friends how you’re making your health a priority with our easy-to-use social media resources, and use the #NWHW hashtag
- Show your support for women’s health by joining the National Women’s Health Week Thunderclap Organize events or activities in your community (1)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018, May 02). About National Women’s Health Week. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.womenshealth.gov/nwhw/about
- Napoli, M. (2002, October). Holistic Health Care for Native Women: An Integrated Model. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1447281/
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, May 12). National Women’s Health Week. Retrieved May 9, 2018, from https://www.cdc.gov/features/nwhw/