Hey moms, your new health to-do list starts today. We all know that it can be difficult for today’s working mothers. Beyond our daily responsibilities at work, we also serve as the Chief Medical Officer for our home. With tissue in one hand and a thermometer in the other, we make doctor appointments for our spouses, children and sometimes for other family members like our parents. We worry about the swine flu. We help choose our healthcare plans and make sure everyone’s prescription is right, up to date and filled. It’s all in a day’s work as we try to keep our families healthy.
As a mother, a nurse and now even as the CEO of one of the country’s leading health care system, the wellbeing of my family has always been a priority. Perhaps it’s all part my nurturing DNA that all women possess. But like most women, I sometimes forget to take care of me. As we hold so much of our families’ care in our hands and in our hearts, many of us forgo our own health. We constantly put love ones’ needs before our own. We go to work sick, forgo our mammograms and pap smears and just never seem to have the time to exercise. We say to ourselves, “I have to get around to that.” And then we never seem to make the time.
Women are grossly underserved when it comes to health improvement. There are over 17 million uninsured women in the U.S. alone, plus women account for less than 30 percent of the participation in clinical trials on new medications and procedures. Even women fortunate enough to have access to care still lack current information, consistent diagnoses, and most importantly – a sense of empathy with other women.
It’s imperative that we learn to manage our family’s health along with our own. It should never be an “either-or” situation when it comes to the wellbeing of our family. We need to incorporate basic things into our lives including taking time for ourselves, sharing our stories with other women and utilizing resources that can help us emotionally and physically. That should also be our priority as we maneuver through our daily lives.
I know sometimes it can be difficult for us to put ourselves first but we have to find the time. What I do is schedule time to make sure I’m taking care of me. Whether its time that I set aside to make sure I have all of my annual doctor appointments scheduled or it’s a block of time that I have scheduled to work out, I have it in my work calendar. This helps me incorporate my “ME” time into my overall time management. Figure out a system that works for you to make your “ME” time easier to manage.
In addition, I want to encourage you to help elevate the health needs and concerns of women. Often I find that many women are not aware of the power of their voice. We have to learn to advocate for our health issues. As our country looks at a new way to approach healthcare to make it accessible to everyone, we have to ensure we are at the table for the discussion. We can no longer sit back and let someone else decide what’s best for our bodies. Enough talk about it just being in our head or in our uterus. Our symptoms are different and we need to demand that we are heard in the doctor’s office, the media and even in the halls of congress.
At St. Joseph Health System, we have taken a hard look at how we can improve access to care for women of all races, creeds and economic and social status. We will not ignore the physical or emotional needs of a woman --- not on my watch. It’s our mission to address the issues that affect a woman’s overall well being whether its heart disease, cancer, stress, depression or diabetes, we are committed to providing the resources necessary at our 14 hospitals, home health agencies and through our community benefit programs.
I am blessed that I have the opportunity to lead an organization that values women like you and me. However, the greatest lesson I’ve learned throughout my journey is that at the end of the day, it’s up to us to take care of ourselves. Take time to make YOU a priority because your families’ wellbeing starts with you.