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!
It’s hard to believe that it’s been half of a century since President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicaid, along with Medicare, into law. Even though Medicare more commonly provides coverage for a smaller fraction of the patients in a typical ob-gyn practice, it still is an example of a national program that works very well, providing coverage for more than 50 million people. Over the past 50 years, Medicaid has grown to cover more than 71 million Americans — nearly one in ten women relies on Medicaid for health coverage which includes family planning, screening for breast and cervical cancer, and long-term services and support. In fact, Medicaid covered 45% of all U.S. births in 2010 and plays a critical role in ensuring access to pregnancy-related care. Without Medicaid, many women would struggle to access or be unable to afford the care we provide.
Earlier this month I received an email announcing the ACOG application for Committee service and I got to thinking about all of the exciting and different ways members can get involved with our organization. I also started to reminisce about my start with ACOG as a member of the Connecticut Section Advisory Council, many years ago. About the same time, I attended several Congressional Leadership Conferences and began to get a feel for the value of ACOG as the only organization that really represents ob-gyns across the country, as well as the patients we serve. That was in the late 1980’s, which started me down the path of holding various ACOG leadership positions; about 10 years later, I became section chair and a member of the District I Advisory Council, ultimately leading to the District I chair role in 2006.
Every step of the way, I had the opportunity to meet some amazing people from an ever-increasing geographical radius. As District I chair, I served with the other District chairs on ACOG’s Executive Board. At the national level, it works in many ways like it does at the section level. There is work to do, and if you want to be involved, you raise your hand and volunteer. ACOG has been a great way to give something back to the specialty that I love and the profession that I chose as my life’s work. So I continued to volunteer, worked on various committees, task forces and work groups from time to time, and became more involved than ever. I had the honor of being chosen for the office of secretary, my first national office, and served in that role for three years, learning more about ACOG, and myself. The rest is history as they say: before I knew it, I was President!
Ah, summertime is here again and you know what that means. Warmer weather and longer days: the perfect time to remind our patients (and ourselves) to enjoy the outdoors and get active in the fresh air. Walking, riding bikes, and swimming are all ways to work out while making the most out of the season.
This is not about getting back into a swim suit, but about fighting obesity. Just last month in my inaugural address, I challenged ACOG members to join me in the fight against obesity. Why? Because, in our country alone obesity claims 300,000 lives a year. The health hazards of being obese are quite well known: diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Obese women are also at a higher risk for numerous types of cancer, including esophageal, pancreatic, colorectal, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, ovarian and renal.
Approximately 36% of adult women in the United States are affected by obesity, and that number has been on the rise. Therefore, physicians have been faced with the challenges inherent in caring for these patients. As ob-gyns, we are, for many patients, the only physician a woman sees on a regular basis. Moreover, we have highly trusted relationships with our patients due to the sensitive nature of our specialty. Ob-gyns are in an ideal position to help educate women and provide counsel on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and fighting obesity.