Health. I don’t believe that this topic can be exhausted. It cannot be written about or spoken of too much. So this week I will try to inform you about hazards affecting us daily and continue to encourage you to take a serious approach to our health issues.
March is Women’s History Month, and so I am going to use this week’s column to highlight women’s health concerns in our Turks and Caicos Islands.
Last week a young mother telephoned me asking for advice. She shared with me a heartbreaking story about her deteriorating health conditions and the callous treatment she received at the hospital after heading to the institution to seek the help she desperately needed. That mother told me she was turned away and denied service. She was told she was not covered by NHIP because she was pregnant and presently, unemployed. She was told by hospital staff that she was no longer covered under the plan, and that coverage (garnered from payments made while she was employed) had ‘run out’ three months earlier.
In my view, this treatment, or should I say- lack of treatment of a pregnant woman is an affront to basic women's health care, in this instance; prenatal care- placing both mother and her unborn child at risk. And it does not end there. I have heard other distressing stories of breast cancer patients being refused care, causing their disease to possibly spread throughout their bodies and prolonging their agony.
We must ensure that there is a positive change in the health care system that caters to our people, especially our women. If women- our mothers and our sisters are refused service or the weaker among us are ignored and shown little or no concern, our development as a people will be hindered.
As a former minister of Health I can proudly say that the former Government made several significant steps forward in an effort to eliminate health disparities. We have never given preference to one over the other and we have never refused any human being access to health services.
The mother mentioned, has a preexisting condition and is expecting her new baby in about two months and was not allowed to see the doctor. Of course she is worried and so I promised her faithfully that I would bring it to you the readers and seek help on her behalf.
Today it seems that there are grave inequities in health care access and the quality and health outcomes across different populations of women.
For example, the racial and ethnic disparities in women’s health have left too many of our hardworking women in poorer health, without reliable access to high quality, affordable health care and thus more likely to die prematurely and often from preventable causes.
Women often make the health care decisions for their families and are the primary caregivers when a family member falls ill. Therefore, the health of women affects not only the individual, but her family and her community.
We are all aware that we cannot boast about a caring social welfare department anymore under this government. However, despite the slumping economy, the decline of many areas of our country and growing desperation among many families especially our women and children, there should never be a slump in the service of health care. My people we are already few in numbers and if our people cannot receive services because they are unemployed, we will eventually die - leaving behind children who cannot care for themselves.
Thank you to the countless committed people in our county who are still doing very hard work. We are seeing health education workshops; talk shows have discussed several aspects of mental health, infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, family and children’s services.
The theme of this year’s Women’s History Month 2012 focuses on educating and empowering women. So today, in this column, I encourage every woman to take her health seriously. Have regular check-ups with your doctors, get mammograms, eat healthy and please let us exercise. What better way to continue to show that “Our Health Is Our Strength?”
In doing so, we will be improving our individual health and thus the wellness and life opportunities of every woman, family and community across the Turks and Caicos Islands. To do otherwise is not only a non option, but also is wholly unhealthy for the people who depends on us.
Women’s History Month traces its origins back to the first International Women’s Day, which was celebrated March 8, 1911. By 1978 the event had expanded to an entire week, and in 1987 the United States Congress formally extended the celebration to an entire month.
Since 2010, the Library of Congress has issued a national theme for each year’s Women’s History Month. This year’s is “Women’s Education and Empowerment.”
I believe working together we can celebrate our progress, address the inequities in women's lives and ultimately improve the quality of life of all women.
As I reflect upon the myriad of ways that women have shared and constantly give of themselves, I wish that we had the time and space to honor them for their contributions. This will be an undertaking of Stepping Stones next available occasion. Some of our hard working women here in the Turks and Caicos Islands has used the stones thrown at them as steps to a brighter future for them and their families. It is important to remind ourselves that there is work that still remains to be done. This is especially true of women’s health issues.