Healthcare Conference Focuses on Women€s Issues

Reyna S. Walters | 7/15/2009, 9:48 p.m.

Hospital executives and CEOs from across the country gathered at a Northwest hotel to participate in a three-day conference on issues that relate to women€s healthcare and to exchange ideas on how to further engage women in maintaining optimal health.

About 200 professionals attended the Spirit of Women National Executive Conference at the Mayflower Hotel on Thu., July 9 through Sat., July 11. The administrators discussed topics that ranged from heart disease to chronic disease management and a plethora of policy issues that affect women.

The Spirit of Women Health Network, headquartered in Boca Raton, Fla., is a network of more than 435 healthcare facilities and almost 58,000 physicians, nurses, and nurse practitioners. The organization aims to improve women€s health through innovative health and community programs.
Cheryl Edwards, assistant research professor at George Washington University€s Jacobs' Women's Health Institute, was one of the speakers who addressed the impact of healthcare reform on urban crisis areas and people with chronic disease. Photo by Victor Holt
€The strategy of Spirit of Women€is to work through the women in the community because we know that in American society, we are the purveyors of wellness. We are the ones that select doctors, we are the ones that manage the healthcare for ourselves and our families,€ said Monica York, manager of Hospital Network for the Spirit of Women.

€It is important that the women are focused because if they are uniformed, then the reciprocal effect of that is that they are not taking the best care of themselves or their families,€ York said.

The organization stresses making health information available in a fun and engaging manner.

€We call it €Health-u-tainment.€ €Health-u-tainment€ just means that you don€t have to be bored to death when you come to learn about wellness,€ York said.

€We don€t want it to be intimidating or dull. We want consumers to understand and respond,€ York said. Some examples include dancing events and girls nights out.

This is the fifth year that Kimberly Davidson, manager of Community Outreach at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, has attended the conference.

€I handle the Spirit of Women programming at our hospital so I enjoy coming and networking with other people that do the same thing that I do all across the country,€ Davidson said.

€I can take [the information] back to my hospital and community and be effective in my job.€

Dr. Icilma Fergus, chief of Cardiology at Harlem Hospital in New York and secretary and chair of Community Programs for the Association of Black Cardiologists, attended the conference to stress the importance of cardiovascular health.

€Women in particular suffer tremendously from cardiovascular disease and it is unrecognized,€ Fergus said.

€I intend to support and share information as to the scope of the problem and what we could do as healthcare providers and women ourselves to try to reduce this major gender disparity,€ Fergus said.

Cheryl Edwards, assistant research professor at the Department of Health Policy at George Washington University in Northwest, spearheaded a year-long study called €In Their Own Voices,€ which used focus groups to gather information about health issues for women of color in the District.

The women in the focus groups expressed various challenges including lack of grocery stores in certain areas of the city, which impacts nutritious food options, and the lack of convenience in accessing healthcare when specialists and healthcare physicians are not in the same location.

€We didn€t want to report what people already knew,€ Edwards said. €We looked at what policy recommendations were important to assist these women in removing barriers to healthcare access.€

Sharing the information with the Spirit of Women conference attendees was critical to Edwards.

€Most members of this organization are hospitals servicing women or women of color. They need to have knowledge and understand what the issues are,€ Edwards said.

Tanya Abreu, president and National Program Director of Spirit of Women, believes the key to success in women€s health is simple.

€To be healthy in your heart is the same prescription as to be happy in your life. You€ve got to know your options and you have to take control,€ she said.
CEOs and clinicians of medical centers from across the U.S., including Icilma Fergus, MD (c) gathered at the Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Northwest on Fri., July 10 to discuss current healthcare issues impacting women. Fergus is the chief of Cardiology at Harlem Hospital and members of the Association of Black Cardiologists. Photos by Victor Holt