Women's Health Base

A look at women, the world and the web

Archive for January, 2009

It’s the health care stupid!

Posted by hannahflynn on January 20, 2009

“We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology’s wonders to raise health care’s quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.”  (From The Telegraph).

Phew, its all done. Few were expecting such a quite frankly socialist approach to science. Yes, the man paved the way to the White House after his election with the appointment of actual scientists as his advisers, but he never said much during his campaign about lowering the cost of health care! I thought that was Clinton’s beef…

Anyway as I have previously posted, Obama is oposed the ‘conscience rule’ that has plagued health legislation in the US over the past month.

This month, he also appointed  his health secretary Tom Daschle, who is also leading the Obama administration’s newly created White House Office of Health Reform.

Tom Daschel has a solid grasp of health policy, having outlined his vision for reform in the 2008 book Critical: What We Can Do About The Health-Care Crisis according to the Washington Post.

At the time the creation of a White House Office of Health Reform signified health care was to be at the forefront of policy, even during an economic crisis. Obama said, “If we want to overcome our economic challenges, we must also finally address our health care challenge. I can think of no one better suited to lead this effort.”

Jeanne Lambrew is to serve as his deputy in that office, a woman who’s research interests include the  uninsured, Medicaid and Medicare, health care funding for people on low incomes.

The implications for women’s health care are vast. Pregnant women’s access to free or subsidised health care in the United States has long been considered an embarrassment. 63 percent of women who receive Medicaid or Medicare are of childbearing age (between 19 and 44).

And it’s not just women wishing to be able to give birth in a hospital who may benefit from Jeanne Lambrew’s appointment. Remember it was only in 2000 their funding was extended to women with either breast or cervical cancer – except if they had already been diagnosed. They had to pay.  

Obama also wishes to create a computerised version of all medical records in the country. Not put off by the vastness of the task the NHS started attempting 5 years ago or the $100 billion price tag. He claims digitalising the records of the whole country will slow the rises in health care costs for low income families, many of whom are headed by single women.

Its good news, Forbes reported 9 percent of Americans rated health care their number one concern, that’s the same amount of people who rated terrorism as their chief concern.

Still, it’s risky business making health care reform so prominent at a time when the economy is shot to bits: lets not forget Bill Cinton tried and failed to improve health policy during an economic boom. But maybe this time, the desperation that got him elected will be ‘the change we need’!


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Seven states to sue over ‘conscience rule’

Posted by hannahflynn on January 19, 2009

Just days before Barack comes to save us all (most importantly women according to the National Women’s Law Centre) it has been announced that seven states, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing as the ‘conscience rule’ clashes with state laws.

In Connecticut state law requires all hospitals in the state to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. Not asking much you may think, but dispensers who claim providing the morning-after-pill goes against their conscience can refuse to prescribe it.

“This rule protects the right of medical providers to care for their patients in accord with their conscience,” HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said when the final rule was announced.

The ‘conscience rule’ should come into force tommorow the day of Barack Obama’s inaugration, and he has voiced opposition to the amendment.

However, opposition has been venomous since the 11th hour amendment was announced last month, seen by many as a last, unwelcome push by the on-the-way-out Bush administration.

Commentators also predict the ruling will affect poor women the most.  

It allows funding to be cut to hospitals where individuals are coerced into providing the morning-after-pill, known in the United States as Plan B, against their conscience.

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Don’t get hormonal

Posted by hannahflynn on January 15, 2009

Oestrogen will shrink your brain (if you are old) and then make you unfaithful (if you are young) according to papers out this week.

The third most popular story on New Scientist today is about a piece of research showing young women with naturally high levels of oestrogen are more likely to man-hop and will consider themselves more attractive, than their peers.

The researchers also asked the students, who averaged 19 years and five months, to rate their own attractiveness and fill out a survey that gauged their propensity to cheat on a partner by flirting, kissing, dating, having sex, or maintaining a serious affair.”

Apparently losing weight, exercising and aging all contribute to a drop in levels of oestradiol (a precursor to oestrogen). Though bafflingly researcher Kristina Durrent uses Angelina Jolie as an example of a women exhibiting the type of behaviour that has evolved in women with high oestradiol, though as far as I can see she was not in the trail.  

Perhaps it was to do with her shrunken brain, though according to researchers this only happens to women who have taken HRT.

Elderly women given HRT were found to have  a slight drop in the size of two brain areas important in memory, compared to women on a placebo. (See http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/whi/)

However there is conflicting evidence as another study found no difference between women on HRT and women on a placebo.

It will be interesting to see how these findings shape public attitudes to them as studies in 2002 and 2004 were haltedafter links were found between HRT, heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer.

The authors then recommend doctors reconsider prescribing combined oestrogen and progestin treatment for long term use.

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Cardiff local food production to increase

Posted by hannahflynn on January 11, 2009

part of this season's crop at Riverside Community Garden Project

Jerusalem artichokes: part of this season's crop at Riverside Community Garden Project

May’s local elections saw Plaid Cymru calling for people to ‘grow their own’, under an eight point manifesto. 

Dr Gwenllian Lansdown, Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru and councillor for Riverside explained, “the policy was premised on releasing land for public ownership for food production; be they allotment sites for instance or plots of land that aren’t doing anything currently, and looking at international models of urban gardens and urban food gardens especially.”

Since then several projects have sprung up to increase the amount of food produced in urban Cardiff, both independently and with the council. These take the form of allotments, guerrilla gardening and community groups. The common aim is simple: to use any space they can to grow fruit and vegetables.

One of the newest arrivals is the Transition Towns  project, a nationwide movement encouraging the increasing localisation of resources. It has attracted attention due to its guerrilla gardening events around Cardiff.

Pat Gregory is involved in awareness raising, which is the first part of the Transition Towns movement, “The guerrilla gardening and urban gardening idea came out of our awareness raising projects as it is a way of doing something visible which people can talk about,” she says.

“We have a monthly speaker event at Dempseys, where people come ad talk about what they are doing, so its about linking the organisations which are already working towards this.”

Another of these organisations is the Riverside Community Garden Project, a set of three allotments on Pontcanna Field, started by Riverside Market earlier this year. Jenny Howell who runs the project says eight or nine volunteers turn up every Wednesday afternoon for the community gardening sessions. They are currently building a woodland area for fruit trees and a herb spiral.

She says, “Some people don’t access the market but we still want to encourage people to access fresh fruit and veg. Any one who wants to come along and help can come along and help, and then we just divvy up the harvest.”


Jenny Howell of Riverside Community Project Garden discusses the reasons behind the allotment.

 Steve Garratt, the manager of Riverside Market, aims to increase the amount of locally produced food sold in the market. He feels they have been successful in helping local business to get off the ground and he has plans to expand the market’s own food production, “We have rented some land close to Cowbridge, as we couldn’t find any land in Cardiff, where we plan to set up a horticulture operation. We will be training people how to do it.”

“Urban agriculture creates a number of social benefits, creates employment and is about a lot more than just producing food.

Steve is also interested in the ‘organoponico’ model that proved a success in Havana, which saw food production focused on small allotments in cities. Plaid Cymru have also engaged with this method of urban agriculture, sending a delegate of members to the Cuban city earlier this year.

“It is a simple model of leasing land in urban areas for food production and concentrating on it being local community projects.” explains Gwenllian. There are other examples from London and from other parts of the UK, where land in more deprived areas has been turned around and used to produce food.

“Obviously the benefits of that are far greater than producing food. It’s about a spirit and a sense of community. There are examples in New York City where people living together have found a plot of land and decided – right we are going to do something about it, and I suppose the basic motivation is to improve the basic community where they live.”


Pontcanna Fields, the site of Riverside Community Garden Projecy
Pontcanna Fields, the site of Riverside Community Garden Project

One of those models is the Friends model which has already been established successfully in Cardiff. Plasnweddan Gardens has its own Friends group and Gwenllian plans to use their experiences to encourage the formation of new Friend’s groups around Cardiff.

In December she started to look for people interested in setting up a Friends group in Clare Gardens in Riverside. The initial plan is to plant fruit trees there as they are a low maintenance form of food production. “I would like to see whether the Friends group in Clare gardens can be emulated elsewhere in the ward so that we can use that as an experience to say – look what we have done here and look at what we could achieve in other parts.”  




Gwenllian Lansdown, Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru explains the reasons behind the party’s pledge to increase local food production in Cardiff.


Further Reading:

A sustainable Wales – Plaid Cymru

Transition Towns wiki

Riverside Community Garden Project blog on Facebook

Transition Town Llandelio – The first transition town in Wales




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What Rachida Dati is risking, five days after giving birth

Posted by hannahflynn on January 9, 2009

Feminists in France are asking if Rachida Dati is a supermum or a disgrace to the feminist cause for returning to work just five days after a caesarean section with her first baby, Zohra.

The French press have been buzzing with speculation over who the father of her child is, but only one thing is certain: Dati was risking her health.

1) It takes time for feeding breastfeeding patterns to be established and five days is not long enough. If the Justice Minister wanted to breastfeed her child then she would need to have it brought to the office to be fed as she would be unable to express milk so soon after the birth. Women are now discharged 2-3 days after a CS as opposed to the tradional 5-6, but this is as many women find it easier to breastfeed at home, which is harder after a CS.

2) Infection is a serious risk to anyone who has undergone abdominal surgery, let alone been exhaused by hours of labour. You are twice as likely to get seriously ill or die after a CS and to put it bluntly, I doubt that tight suit on her sutures is going to do much good.

3) Post-partum blood loss which will still be pretty heavy after 5 days can cause you to collapse. The average loss for a CS is one litre. While most hemorrhage occurs immediately after birth it can occur up to one week post-partum.

4) Women who have undergone a CS are advised to not pick up anything heavier than their baby or do any exercise for the first six weeks. To do otherwise is to risk re-opening the wound.

5) Dati is 43. Being over 35 puts you at greater risk for venous thromboembolic disease, as does CS delivery. This is one of the major causes of post-partum mortality today, and though it is rare there are a number of prophylactic measures that can be taken including the wearing of support stockings. But on Dati? I don’t think so.

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Tories say mixed-sex wards must go

Posted by hannahflynn on January 9, 2009

Mixed-sex wards have failed to be phased out following the Government’s election promise to remove them, claim the Conservative party.

The Tories have promised to introduce individual rooms for expectant mothers in NHS hospitals.

They claim hospitals are failing to provide single-sex washing and toilet facilities on their wards, though this is a requirement. They also suggest that not providing separate toilet facilities nullifies any single-sex wards.

This is following an FOI request showing 15 percent of hospitals still used at least one single-sex open plan ward.

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