This weekend I got to attend an excellent event at my university featuring Hillary Clinton. Now, as most people know, Hillary (yeah, we’re on a first name basis now…) is running to be President of the United States; but what a lot of people don’t know is that she has already done so much to promote women’s health!
Women’s health has never been a front-and-center issue in politics, unless it’s about whether women should be allowed to terminate pregnancies or not. But there are so many other topics that affect women and how we are treated in the medical system that people rarely acknowledge.
One of the first questions addressed was about research into women’s health. The questioner was a woman who is currently being treated for ovarian cancer for the second time, and she was wondering what Hillary was going to do beyond reproductive rights to help women. Hillary then brought up an extremely important fact that I didn’t even know, which was that it wasn’t until 1990 that scientists started using women as test subjects for scientific research.
This is massive because women’s bodies, how they function, and how they respond to treatments are extremely different from men’s bodies. Yet it wasn’t until the 1990s that we recognized the importance of including women in these scientific trials to understand the differences. This means we have a lot of catch-up to do to further understand how we can optimize medical treatments for women. Hillary plans to make this one of her major platforms for driving women’s health into the future. Supporting the funding of research into female-specific health topics so that our bodies’ needs, responses, and side effects will be known.
One of the biggest platforms Hillary is running on is the continued support of the American Care Act (A.K.A, Obama-care). Yes, this is controversial, but one of the most important things the ACA does is ensure being a woman is not treated as a pre-existing condition. Before the ACA, insurance companies could charge women higher prices and even deny them coverage for a history of pregnancy, having a C-section, surviving breast or cervical cancer, or receiving medical treatment for partner violence. Under the ACA, women must now be covered for all preventative medicine, including exams and birth control, at no additional cost.
Hillary acknowledges that there are many things that need to be fixed under the ACA, but that we have pushed women’s healthcare so far into the future by securing many of these necessary equalities in insurance coverage through the ACA, so we should continue building upon it.
Beyond ACA, fair insurance practices, and reproductive rights, Hillary is also looking to focus on another essential side of women’s health: maternal and family care. Currently, there is a law that essentially says, a new parent can take leave from work to take care of his/her child and not get fired; but there is no law that guarantees paid leave for parents. This puts parents in a bind because most parents want to look after their children in the first weeks of life to ensure their health and well being, but it’s not fair that so many families have to choose between getting a paycheck and caring for their children. Hillary supports a plan for 12 weeks of paid leave for new parents to alleviate this burdensome choice so many have to make, and help promote the health of newborns everywhere in the US.
But that’s not enough for Hillary. A fun little fact she brought up: 80% of a child’s brain mass is formed by the age of three, which makes the infant and toddler years of a child’s life extremely important. If a parent was never taught good childcare practices, or if a child is born with disabilities and the parent does not know how to properly care for him/her, then these children start with an early disadvantage in life. Hillary also hopes to promote early childcare for better development by lowering costs of essential disability interventions, helping educate parents in their homes so they develop good childcare practices, and promoting childcare professions in communities to support child development.
Securing women’s health means securing a family’s health. Beyond being able to live healthier, happier, and more productive lives, healthy women and healthy children also greatly contribute to a healthy economy. Despite what your political stance is, Hillary is the first candidate who has made women’s health a front and center issue because it matters and has been overlooked for so long. These policies are essential and important for securing women’s health and equality in the future.