At the Coalition for Women’s Health Equity’s recent Women’s Health Empowerment Summit in Washington, D.C., women from all standings, backgrounds, and disciplines united for a day of learning, sharing, and inspiration. This year’s theme, “Breaking Barriers, Changing Futures,” brought together experts, advocates, doctors, and authors to tackle some of the most timely, important issues facing women in this day and age.
“Women are refusing to stay silent on misdiagnoses,” said Ellen Hershkin, National President, Hadassah. “Women’s health does not advance itself; we have to fight for it.”
Summit participants learned about efforts to eradicate disparities and discrimination in women’s health around prevention, research, access, and treatment. Some of the key takeaways included:
- The health disparities that exist in our health system negatively impact women.
- One of the most effective strategies we can do is build relationships with other women’s health coalitions, policymakers, and influencers.
- Fatalities result from lack of including women in clinical trials.
In a special panel on the impact of caregiving on women, panelists spoke about the need to offer caregivers more information about supporting stroke victims. One of the hardest parts of caregiving can be managing stroke survivors’ emotions and behaviors. Families need strategies and tips for managing their own care, as caregivers are notorious for neglecting their own care. In fact, caregivers often forego their own medical needs, including mammograms, colonoscopies, etc. Caregivers are even twice as likely to develop heart disease in their lifetimes.
And in a moving personal speech, WomenHeart Champion Starr Mirza shared her story about struggling with misdiagnoses for much of her adolescence. Despite showing physical symptoms she couldn’t quite figure out, such as fainting and feeling a reoccurring “ticking” in her chest, doctors assured Mirza’s parents that she was fine. Until one day, newly married at 23 living in Florida, she collapsed from cardiac arrest. When she awoke, she learned she has Long QT syndrome, a condition that causes fast, chaotic heartbeats and whose symptoms include fainting and seizures. Mirza shared her wish for all women: to listen to your body and to be relentless when it comes to advocating for your own health care.
The summit also addressed mental health issues in women. In a fireside chat on how gender bias affects women’s mental health and treatment, panelists delved into how women are more likely to suffer from depression, mental health issues, and workplace discrimination. One in seven women suffer from postpartum depression; one in two women of color suffer from postpartum depression.