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The fight for women’s health equity continues.

March is Women’s History Month. It’s a time to reflect on the role of women in society and the fight for gender equity.

As we highlight women, we acknowledge gender can play a role in healthcare outcomes.

We also want to celebrate the organizations and people in Pierce County who work to make healthcare equitable for everyone.

Health inequities and the patriarchy.

In a patriarchal society, women have a lower status. That means less control to make decisions about their bodies and even intimate relationships. This can lead to more exposure to violence.

Women and girls also face increased risks of unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease that could lead to HIV and cervical cancer.

Access to health information and critical health services is vital to improve the health of all women in Pierce County.

Help for women.

In Pierce County, we have groups committed to making life safer for women and girls. Leaders in Women’s Health is one of them.

The organization’s motto: “We envision a world where all people have access to all aspects of health, no matter the color of their skin, socio-economic status or gender.”

That mission began in 2011 after the Carol Milgard Breast Center asked Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department to assess how the organization could best target underserved communities in Pierce County.

The assessment supported national studies that show Black women have the worst outcomes, more than any race, for breast cancer. That includes more risk of a late diagnosis, premature death rates or dying at a younger age, and higher rates of breast cancer in general.

The goal became clear: give Black women more access to healthcare, information and mammograms.

Now, Leaders in Women’s Health hosts all kinds of events and outreach dedicated to educating women about their health. During the pandemic, the organization has helped spread messages about vaccines, safety and general COVID information. The group uses social media to inform people about the state of public health and how to get involved.

Ann Mumford, one of the founding members, says this work is important because, “We spend so many years only going to the doctor for emergencies, but I want to be active in the community talking about prevention. When I talk to people, I solicit ambassadors because I believe I can’t be everywhere. But once you start to educate, people can help their families and others.”

Graphic show women of different cultures to celebrate women's history month.

History of women committed to education.

The work of groups like Leaders in Women’s Health reminds us of the women in history who fought for health equity. Iona Rollin Whipper was one of the few Black obstetricians in Washington, D.C., in the 1900s.

She saw the unsanitary conditions young women lived in and traveled throughout the South during World War I. She educated Black mothers and midwives about public health and hygiene and founded organizations to improve the lives of low-income Black women.

As we remember the people who have fought to educate women about their health, we must acknowledge health equity is important for all of us.

This Women’s History Month we encourage you to reflect on the physical and emotional labor women face every day, and how everyone should help increase all aspects of gender equality.

UPDATED: 03/16/2022