Barnard Summit: Women and Health
hosted a daylong forum on women’s health trends worldwide, The
Barnard Summit: Women and Health. The daylong event, an initiative
of Barnard President Judith Shapiro, brought together a group
of twenty-one panelists including U.S. government policy makers,
health advocates, journalists, doctors and researchers.
The goal of the
summit was a better understanding of women’s health trends globally
and access to healthcare. Approximately 700 women and men attended
the conference, which was supported by the Bill & Melinda
Gates Foundation, Merck & Co., Inc. and Pfizer Inc.
The first panel,
moderated by President Shapiro, was an assessment of recent health
trends. While millions of women around the world lack basic healthcare,
there have also been major improvements in recent decades. The
changes are due to medical advancements and also “to a growing
recognition that women are not small men,” Shapiro said.
directly on women has been an essential part of the progress.
“When we were in medical school the typical model was the 70 kilogram
male; it was like the rest of us were in the background somewhere,”
Dr. Cristina V. Beato said. Dr. Beato is the Principal Deputy
Assistant Secretary for Health to the Secretary of Health and
Human Services. “We’ve made incredible strides and I think the
key is women in health fields, women in research and women in
In the past, discussions
of reproductive organs and breast cancer dominated women’s health
to the exclusion of other issues. This is beginning to change,
yet most women under 45 still seem more concerned about breast
cancer or reproductive cancer than anything else, according to
Glamour Magazine Editor-in-Chief, Cindi Leive. “The reality, though,
is that they are more likely to die from heart disease or even
a car accident.”
Lack of access
to healthcare is another issue that needs to be examined, according
to Faye Wattleton, president of The Center for the Advancement
of Women, a research, education and advocacy organization. “The
reality is that 42 million people in this country, this year,
will not have health care coverage and the majority of them will
be poor women, working women, women trying to make ends meet,”
Lack of access
to healthcare was also a major focus of the second panel, Women
and Healthcare: A Critical Analysis. “We have a huge problem in
the amount of information that’s out there and a bigger problem
of access to services,” said Judy Norsigian, executive director
and co-founder of the Boston Women’s Health Collective.
also plays a role in the quality of medical care women receive.
Byllye Avery, founder of the National Black Women’s Health Project,
told a story about a dentist in Florida who decided to extract
her tooth rather than perform a root canal because he assumed
she couldn’t afford the procedure.
in a country that is still, sad to say, full of racism, sexism,
classism and homophobia,” Avery said, “it influences the way people
are treated and the information they are given.”
in women’s healthcare that have taken place are largely due to
the grassroots efforts of “women getting together and talking
about women’s health,” said Dr. Vivian Pinn, director of the Office
of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institute of Health.
“Better health for ourselves, as well as our community, has two
facets, what the healthcare system can provide for us and what
we can provide for ourselves.”
While there was
consensus among panelists that conditions are getting better in
Western countries, they also spoke about the millions of women
in developing countries that lack the basic resources to stay
alive. Women and World Health: A Matter of Survival was the third
for wealthier countries to do more to alleviate poverty in developing
countries and to provide access to healthcare. Economist Jeffrey
Sachs, special advisor to the United Nations Secretary General
and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, talked
about a recent trip to Malawi where he saw 450 people dying of
AIDS in a hospital without medicine. He also met a grandmother
who carried one of her grandchildren more than six miles to a
clinic only to find there was no quinine to treat the child’s
‘what does the United States do?’ Tragically little,” he said.
“We spend about one-ten thousandth of our average gross national
product for health in poor countries.”
cannot be examined in isolation from politics, the environment
or socioeconomic concerns. It is important to take responsibility
both personally and as professionals, Barnard President Judith
Shapiro said. “Intrinsic to being a good citizen is being an informed
citizen about healthcare.”#
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2003.