On May 16, 2018, the Coalition for Women's Health Equity — convened by Hadassah — hosted its second annual Women's Health Empowerment Summit at the Capital Hilton in Washington, DC. The event brought together hundreds of policymakers, thought leaders, and women's health champions during National Women's Health Week (May 13-18) to build momentum and strategize action steps to further women's health equity.
The Summit featured National Women's Law Center President & CEO Fatima Goss Graves — whose organization administers the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund — and Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36). Samantha Abrams, Executive Director of the March on Washington Film Festival, served as the summit emcee. In addition to lead sponsor Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc., the American Heart Association, WomenAgainstAlzheimer's, and the Shane Foundation sponsored several timely panels. The Summit Planning Committee also included HealthyWomen, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, and WomenHeart. The Summit's bipartisan Honorary Host Committee included 40 Members of Congress.
Watch video clips of our inspiring speakers and read a full event recap below, then spread the word about #HealthEquity4Her.
Discussion about the unique burden women face as caregivers and viable solutions.WATCH ›
Intimate conversation on how bias affects women’s mental health and treatment.WATCH ›
Hadassah's National President Ellen Hershkin and Executive Director / CEO Janice Weinman opened the event, proclaiming that women's health could only be advanced if the advocates in the room continue to fight for it. Hershkin connected the work of the Hadassah Medical Organization — like the Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Institute for Women — to Hadassah's reasons for founding the Coalition for Women's Health Equity. Weinman outlined the policies and regulations moving the dial on women's health, including the recently reintroduced Health Equity and Accountability Act and the RAISE Family Caregivers Act signed into law earlier this year.
Announcing plans to introduce a new health equity bill that would address the gender health gap and ensure that no woman falls through the cracks, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36) touched on the lack of public health outreach and preventative services for women as well as the lack of women in the healthcare profession and research studies.
Keynote speaker Fatima Goss Graves, President & CEO of the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) recounted the public lessons of #MeToo in the workplace and throughout the healthcare system and spoke about the female patient cases that the TIME'S UP Legal Defense Fund — which NWLC administers — is handling. Despite the onslaught of sexual harassment and violence claims, she assured attendees, that "in this moment, we will win and we will heal."
Leading experts, from best-selling authors and veterans of women's health policy to experienced physicians, led spirited discussions about women's health disparities in caregiving, mental health, and clinical trials:
- The Caregiving Across the Lifespan: The Disparate Impact of Caregiving on Women and Opportunities for Change panel focused on the burden and opportunities presented by caregiving and legislation that would require the government to develop a strategy to recognize and support family caregivers.
- During the Gender and Mental Health: How Bias Affects Women's Mental Health and Treatment fireside chat, practitioners discussed the high rates of women dealing with mental illness who are often prevented from seeking help due to shame, and the need to change attitudes and adjust treatment accordingly.
- Finally, Women and Clinical Trials: Past, Present and Future panelists discussed efforts and programs that educate women about clinical trials and encourage their enrollment, as well as the steps necessary to eliminate barriers to participation in clinical trials.
The Summit also featured the real-life stories of women who experienced the dangerous effect of inequities first-hand. Kathryn Fox, a Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) patient and advocate, urged the audience to reach out to Congress and request a greater focus on the disease which affects between 1 to 2.5 million people in the U.S. Patient advocate Starr Mirza, who had a heart attack at age 23 due to a condition that had been misdiagnosed for years, delivered a powerful message and rallying cry for women everywhere: "Listen to your body. You know your body better than anyone. You're not a faker. You are not dramatic. And, you are not alone."
Special thanks to the Women's Health Empowerment Summit's bipartisan Honorary Host Committee:
U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA); U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY); U.S. Senator Ed Markey (MA); U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (AK); U.S. Senator Patty Murray (WA); U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA); U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty (OH-03); U.S. Representative Don Beyer (VA-08); U.S. Representative Kenneth “Ken” Buck (CO-04); U.S. Representative David Cicilline (RI-01); U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05); U.S. Representative Gerald Connolly (VA-11); U.S. Representative Jim Cooper (TN-05); U.S. Representative Lou Correa (CA-46); U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings (MD-07); U.S. Representative Suzan DelBene (WA-01); U.S. Representative Debbie Dingell (MI-12)l; U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-35); U.S. Representative Lois Frankel (FL-21); U.S. Representative Andy Harris (MD-01); U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-07); U.S. Representative Joe Kennedy (MA-04); U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06); U.S. Representative Ann Kuster (NH-01); U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (MI-14); U.S. Representative Alan Lowenthal (CA-47); U.S. Representative Michelle Lujan Grisham (NM-01); U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney (NY-12); U.S. Representative Jim McGovern (MA-02); U.S. Representative Grace Meng (NY-06); U.S. Representative Seth Moulton (MA-06); U.S. Representative Stephanie Murphy (FL-07); U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (NJ-01); U.S. Representative Scott Peters (CA-52); U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (DE-01); U.S. Representative Raul Ruiz (CA-36); U.S. Representative Linda Sanchez (CA-38); U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky (IL-09); U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (CA-28); and U.S. Representative Dina Titus (NV-01).
Post Summit Actions to Advance Women's Health Equity:
- Promote Summit Videos and #HealthEquity4Her to your friends, colleagues, and social network.
- Thank Congressman Ruiz on social media for his leadership on women's health equity and urge your legislators to join the fight for #HealthEquity4Her.
- Meet with your federal officials when they are home from Washington through Hadassah Day in the District program and urge them to support key women's health equity legislation.
- Learn more about clinical trials and discuss participation opportunities with your physician. Through the Diverse Women in Clinical Trials Initiative, organizations may partner with the FDA on educational outreach, scientific programming, and resources.
- Urge your legislators to cosponsor the Health Equity and Accountability Act, reintroduced by Tri-Caucus on May 23, 2018.
- Speak out in support of the Concentrating on High-Value Alzheimer's Needs to Get to an End (CHANGE) Act, bipartisan legislation to encourage early assessment and diagnosis of Alzheimer's, relieve the burden on caregivers, and accelerate progress to disease modifying treatments. You can also follow updates on the CHANGE Act on Twitter at #CHANGEAlzNow.
- Join the #CureStigma campaign, an effort to get people to speak openly about mental health and examine and eliminate the ways in which our actions and language discourage those struggling with mental illness from seeking treatment.
- Urge your Senators to co-sponsor a ME/CFS Senate Resolution and learn more about this condition by watching the award-winning film Unrest.
- Speak out about your experiences with bias and misdiagnosis, health effects of #metoo, and why you care about #HealthEquity4Her. Testimonials are key to showing the impact of health inequities.
Stay tuned for updates from the Coalition for Women's Health Equity. With your help, we can raise the visibility and urgency for the broad umbrella of women's health equity issues! Contact us to learn how you can support and get involved with our work.