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Promoting healthy Alaskan women this National Women’s Health Care Week

Clover Simon

As a mother, I know how easy it is to put my family’s health before my own. To put off that well woman exam because I feel fine, or ignore that strange breast lump. Cervical and breast cancer, when caught early are treatable, so getting regular checkups is crucial. Early detection and treatment of these diseases saves lives.

Did you know May 13-19 was National Women’s Health Week? What a perfect time for women to prioritize and take charge of their own health by scheduling a checkup.

Yet, as we promote and educate women about the importance of seeking healthcare the very health centers they visit and the services they depend on are under attack. Across the United States politicians believe they know more about providing women’s health care than our physicians.

Politicians have said they want to end the national family planning program. This would take away health care that millions of women rely on. Across Alaska uninsured women rely on family planning providers, and in many cases we are the only provider they will see each year. This is true for patients accessing services at Planned Parenthood as well as our family planning colleagues at the State of Alaska, Municipality of Anchorage and Kachemak Bay Family Planning. Without these safety net providers, breast and cervical cancers will remain undetected and untreated resulting in the avoidable loss of our mothers, aunts, daughters and friends.

Preserving family planning providers and supporting national health care initiatives will only cause more of these cancers to be detected early. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, many of these women will be newly eligible for health insurance coverage under the law, and insurance plans will soon be required to cover basic care such as pelvic exams and birth control without co-pays. That’s why the Affordable Care Act must be maintained.

At Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest we know firsthand the importance of checkups in preventing more serious health issues. Our health centers in Alaska offer a wide range of preventive health services, including lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment of STDs, breast health services, the HPV vaccine, and sexual health information and education. Last year alone, we provided over 9,700 preventive visits to women across Alaska.

As a community it’s our responsibility to take care of women and provide them with the health services they need to lead happy, healthy lives. You can honor the women in your life by reminding them to take care of themselves with the same tender love they gave you. It will go a long way in promoting a strong future for Alaska’s women.

Clover Simon is the Federal Program Administrator for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.