The White House has declared this week Zika Provider Action Week. This call to action could not come at a better time. The Zika virus has occupied our profession and our patients nearly non-stop since news of it broke last fall. There is no doubt that Zika presents a very real concern to patients and challenge to health care providers. With the discovery of virus transmission by mosquitoes here in the United States, many of us are faced with the even more real possibility of treating patients with potential or confirmed exposure.
As ob-gyns, we are on the front lines of patients’ concerns about Zika. As each new finding is played out in the news, our patients call or come in looking for answers to help their understanding of the risk, and more often than not, assuage their fears. Unfortunately, in the instance of Zika, we too are often scrambling for knowledge, seeking elusive answers from research institutions and government agencies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has done an admirable job working quickly and efficiently to assess, address, and educate the American public about the Zika outbreak.
As ACOG President, I feel a great responsibility to help our members and our specialty lead and evolve in these changing and often challenging times. To do so, we must focus on building a strong foundation upon the rigorous standards of excellence that guide us every day. One of the things I most enjoy about membership in ACOG is the community. With a central goal at hand, superior care for women and families, we come together to learn from, support, and develop alongside our peers. As we face more constant, direct, and often negative forces beyond our exam rooms, our community has another imperative: advocacy.
By cultivating the knowledge and capability of our existing and newest members, we ensure the future of our profession and the patients we serve. In part, this requires legislative and political advocacy by all of our Fellows and Junior Fellows. We must lend the diversity and depth of our community’s knowledge and expertise to help reach safe and sustainable outcomes on issues regarding women’s healthcare.
Working in the field of global health has been a passion of mine since my wife, Melanie, and I served on a medical mission in the Dominican Republic many years ago. I saw first-hand the need to increase the quality of health care provided to women in other countries. All women require access to quality health care no matter where they live, and training and educating health workers is key to ensuring that care is available.
The World Health Organization reports that almost all (99 percent) of the nearly 300,000 maternal deaths every year occur in developing countries. Two of the most common cancers affecting women – breast and cervical cancers – are of growing global concern. These alarming statistics are what make our partnership with Health Volunteer Overseas (HVO) so important. For nearly 30 years, HVO has empowered health care professionals in resource-scarce countries with knowledge and skills to address the health care needs of their communities.
“The Times They Are A-changin”… That’s how I began my presidential inaugural address last year, and guess what? They are still changing! This theme underscored virtually everything we did this past year. Let me very briefly review where we are…
We began the year with a major legislative victory in that the SGR was repealed, and in its place is a more complicated program affecting physician payment, MACRA. I am finishing my year by appointing a work group of experts to better understand the new law and help translate it for our members. Stay tuned on that front.
Numerous issues arose during the year, ranging from over-the-counter contraception, home births, Planned Parenthood, TRAP laws, midwifery, Zika and many more. We have such an amazing staff in Practice and Communications…we were able to issue timely and meaningful statements about all of these issues and keep informed debate going on the national level about these and other important topics.
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.