Women on Wellness
In the typical American home, women are the leaders, at least according to some state experts. Women take on the roles of decision-makers for their families—from doctor’s appointments to what the family eats. West Virginia’s National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health Director Betty Critch says most women do not recognize their roles in the home, which results in them putting themselves, and their health, last.
West Virginia’s National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health is only one of 20 such centers in the country and has been around since 2004. “We were one of the last centers to be built, which gave us the opportunity to learn from the previous institutions,” says Betty. The center was established to improve the health of women across their lives in the hopes that they would pass on good health to their families, too. “What better way to reach out to the health of all West Virginians than through the person who generally makes all of the health decisions?” Betty says. Center research shows that women make up to 90 percent of health care decisions for their families. From that percentage, 66 percent of women control health care spending.
Betty says that out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, West Virginia ranks 50 in overall health status indicators, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, and more in both men’s and women’s health. “Something has to be done,” she says.
Though the efforts of the center are to improve the health of all Mountain State residents, the center recognizes the differences in men’s and women’s health. Betty says women show different symptoms of certain diseases than men. Women also ingest some drugs differently.
The stats say it all. More than 60 percent of West Virginia women are obese and overweight. And of course obesity is the root of many chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer, and even arthritis. Betty says that between 2007 and 2010, the number of women with arthritis, high blood pressure, and diabetes rose. Currently, our state ranks 49th for arthritis and high blood pressure, and fell to last place for diabetes.
The center continues to work to bring attention to these facts. Betty says the group has high impact rates with retreats all over the state, reaching out to women everywhere. “Out of all 20 institutions, we are the only one with a 100 percent capture area,” she says. “We reach out to the entire state, which is impressive considering how rural we are as a whole.”
Women on Wellness (WOW) retreats are the centerpiece of education and outreach activities for the center. WOW gives women tools for lifestyle changes and connects them with resources in their communities. The retreats help women understand their leadership roles in fostering healthy lifestyles among their families and friends. Many retreats have been held in Wetzel, Marion, Mercer, Hampshire, Preston, and Lewis counties.
“Women are natural leaders, they just don’t know it,” Betty says.
You can get involved with WOW this summer. A retreat will be held in Fairmont on Saturday, July 21, 2012. To register for the event or for more information, call 304.293.0946, 304.288.9304, or visit wvhealthywomen.org.