Women Speak Up and Take Control of Their Health

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Laura Eldridge, in a posthumous collaboration with Barbara Seaman, catalyst of 1970s health activism, has reissued the best writing on women's health. Below, Seaman explains why she believed health activism is central to women's rights.

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Treatment for Quality Care

At the turn of the millennium, a Barnard College senior asked Judy Norsigian of Our Bodies, Ourselves what she hopes to see when the continuously updated volume celebrates its 50th anniversary in the year 2020. Norsigian answered, "The creation of a health and a medical care system that is far more responsive to women's needs and accessible to all women regardless of age, income, sexual preference, race, etc.  .  .  And using technology in the most appropriate way--that is science-based, not profit-based .  .  .  People need to be in control of their own health. But in order for that to be possible, they must have information from a trustworthy source."

I asked Cindy Pearson, executive director of the National Women's Health Network, what she thinks about patients taking their health into their own hands. "Thirty years ago," Pearson said, "if anyone talked about a bad experience they had with the health care system .  .  . the response would usually be 'You need a better doctor .  .  . '" Today, in part through the hard-won battles of consumer advocates, AIDS activists and the feminist health movement, among others, that isn't the only answer. Pearson continues, "People talked about finding a good doctor but then realized good doctors aren't the answer, informed patients are the answer."

I believe that within the yin and yang of these two thoughtful responses there is to be found the right approach: good science combined with leadership from the patients' points of view. What makes a good doctor these days isn't always easy to say. But if there is one quality we should all be looking for in our doctors, it is the willingness to listen seriously to their patients.

BIO: An author, women's health activist, and energizing influence on hundreds of younger writers and organizers for nearly half a century, Barbara Seaman persistently challenged the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies by exposing their drive for profit at the expense of women. She died of lung cancer in 2008.


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Laura Eldridge is a women's health writer and activist. She is the author of In Our Control: The Complete Guide to Contraceptive Choices for Women and the co-author of The No-Nonsense Guide to Menopause.

For more information:

Buy the book, Voices of the Women's Health Movement, Volume 1 by Barbara Seaman'

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