Last Thursday the SOPP office hosted the third annual Women’s Health Month Conference. This year’s topic was “Understanding the Influence of Public Policy on Women’s Health”. Although the conference was not as well attended as in past years, there was a good assortment of health care providers and academics present.
The first presenter, Dr. Wendy Smooth, an Ohio State Women’s Studies Professor, provided an overview of “Women as Policymakers”. According to Dr. Smooth, Women, and especially women of color, carry some of the most progressive legislation and are more likely to list health care as one of their top priorities. Unfortunately, female politicians are still in a very small minority – only two percent of Congress. On the state level, women are more present with around 22 percent of all state legislator positions. Dr. Smooth also covered some power dynamics within political meetings that make it difficult for female politicians to get an equal voice.
Julie Piercey and Laurie Housmeyer from Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio presented on public policy effecting sex education, contraceptive accessibility, and other women’s health issues. In their synopsis, they compared the US with several European countries in numbers of teen pregnancy and numbers of sexual partners, amongst other factors, making it clear that our educational programs and cultural support systems are failing.
Our own Women’s Studies professor, Isabella Winkler, gave a different perspective on women’s health by looking at the interaction between public policy and the GLBTQ community. Winkler posed the question which part of a GLBTQ community would fit into the constraints of a woman’s health conference and continued to challenge public health policy to expose in what ways construction of identity alters health and policy.
In an attempt to help attendees bring concerns into action, Ann Hembree rounded off with “A brief Training on How to Influence Public Policy,” that included guidelines for talking to politicians and ways to become involved.
For more information on Women’s health and how to get involved, the SOPP office can be reached at PBX 1128.