Vineeta Gupta MD, JD, LL.M
Technical Director, Global Women’s Health
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
A woman dies from pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes. Almost all of these deaths (99%) are in developing countries. The most heartbreaking part is that the vast majority of these deaths are preventable.
As the nation’s leading group of physicians providing health care for women, ACOG strongly advocates for quality health care for women – everywhere.
That’s why, in an effort to demonstrate the urgency of global action to protect maternal health and rights, ACOG recognizes today as the International Day for Maternal Health and Rights.
As obstetrician-gynecologists, we understand the importance of providing safe, high quality care for our patients. But as the nation focuses on better ways to provide this care, the overuse of resources is an issue of considerable concern and many experts agree that the current way health care is delivered in this country contains too much waste and inefficiency. It’s crucial that providers across all specialties and patients work together to have conversations about wise treatment decisions. That’s why ACOG is a proud partner of Choosing Wisely®, a campaign led by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation, with a goal of advancing a national dialogue on avoiding unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures. The key word here is “unnecessary.”
March 8, 2016 marks International Women’s Day and as obstetrician-gynecologist we are dedicated to quality care of women throughout their lives. We know that gender-equality is a great issue for women here in the U.S. and around the world.
As women’s health care providers, we know many of the things that help women to achieve parity. One, of course, is reproductive autonomy. The ability to control if and when to become pregnant helps women to finish their educations, progress in their careers, and pursue their life goals. This cannot be emphasized enough, but unfortunately, millions of women around the world lack reproductive control.
The theme for the 2016 International Women’s Day is #PledgeforParity. I view this theme as making two important statements: one is that women, despite gains, still do not enjoy the equality that they deserve. The other is that we all must actively take a stand, and we can do so by signing the pledge and by joining the discussion on social media.
Larry Maxwell, MD, FACOG, COL(ret) U.S. Army, Director of the Globe-athon to End Women’s Cancers
Global statistics from the International Agency for Research on Cancer indicate that in 2012, gynecologic cancers accounted for 16% of the 6.6 million estimated new cases and 14% of the 3.5 million cancer related deaths among women. That means that 1 million women will be diagnosed this year with cancers below the belt and a woman will lose her battle with this disease almost every minute of every day. Cervical cancer accounted for 527,000 new cases and for 239,000 deaths. Although cervical cancer is the fourth-leading cause of cancer related death across the globe, it is the number one cause of cancer related deaths in some parts of Africa. Prevention of cervical cancer with the HPV vaccine is one of the best strategies to address the increasing problem of cervical cancer, particularly for low income countries. Unfortunately, only one third of eligible girls have received all 3 doses of the HPV vaccine in the U.S. This lack of compliance is increased among underserved groups such as African Americans. Public mistrust of the HPV vaccine has been fueled by information that is often misleading. The Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System, a national database maintained by the CDC, has analyzed severe events and not found any causative relationships. In order to optimize public opinion and enhance compliance, it’s important to clarify additional misperceptions about the safety of the vaccine.
You asked and we listened. To better serve our Members, today marks the launch of ACOG’s Estimated Due Date Calculator (EDD Calculator). It’s an easy-to-use, straightforward, free app that is strictly based on joint recommendations from ACOG, the American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine (AIUM) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) for determining pregnancy due dates.
Notably, the EDD Calculator is the only app of its kind that reconciles the discrepancy in due dates between the first ultrasound and the date of the last menstrual period. It also has an assisted reproductive technology (ART) component to help health care providers with patients who undergo embryo transfer.
The New Year is upon us. Unfortunately, it also coincides with flu season and we still have a long way to go when it comes to educating our patients on the benefits of the influenza vaccine. A recent poll found that many Americans don’t believe they need the flu shot. Those who haven’t been immunized cited a variety of reasons including the belief that the flu shot is unnecessary, belief that the vaccination is ineffective, concerns about the side effects or risk and worries that the vaccine could infect them with the flu. As clinicians, we know that the flu shot is safe, effective, and the best protection our patients have against influenza. It is our job to communicate these messages to all of our patients, especially pregnant women.
December 6th marked the beginning of National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national campaign to urge everyone to get the flu vaccine. Throughout the entire flu season, I encourage all health care providers to strongly recommend the flu shot to your patients, emphasizing the importance of this simple preventative health action.
Earlier this month at its Annual Meeting and Exposition, the American Public Health Association (APHA) adopted 18 new policy statements ranging from contraception access to preventing prescription painkiller abuse. Although they go beyond the Pap test and pelvic exam, many of the new standards are directly related to ob-gyns as population health is closely linked to our specialty. It’s important for us to pay attention to these related issues so, I’d like to take a moment to review a few of them here. Please note that these are only some of the women’s health focused policy positions.
When I assumed the presidency in May, I promised to work on behalf of our patients, our doctors and ACOG. Not quite halfway through a very busy year, I wanted to give you a progress report on my activities.
Who will Care for America’s Women?
The results are in: not only are high professional liability premiums impacting ob-gyn practices around the country, but the fear of lawsuits is limiting women’s access to health care. Data from the 2015 ACOG Survey on Professional Liability confirms an enduring negative liability environment, with nearly 50% of ob-gyns surveyed making changes to their practice as a result of the risk or fear of professional liability claims or litigation. Notably, nearly 40% of ob-gyns have made changes to their practice because of the unavailability or unaffordability of professional liability insurance. Unfortunately, these practice changes are having a negative impact on the women we treat. Results of the survey showed that too often, ob-gyns have been forced to decrease the number of high-risk obstetric patients they see and/or limited the gynecological surgical procedures they offer. This leads me to the question: If this doesn’t change, who will deliver America’s babies? Who will care for America’s women?
ACOG Celebrates National Immunization Awareness Month
Every year, thousands of adults in the United States suffer serious health problems, are hospitalized, or even die from diseases that could have been prevented by vaccination. To celebrate the importance of immunizations throughout life – and to help remind adults that they need vaccines, too – ACOG is recognizing August as National Immunization Awareness Month. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure adults are protected against diseases like whooping cough, tetanus, shingles and pneumococcal disease. Let’s not forget the flu either, as flu season is right around the corner!