A couple years ago, I read a New York Times opinion article that stuck with me. It discussed the 2016 presidential candidates’ lack of focus on women’s health. The author, Nicholas Kristof, shared a shocking statistic: in the United States, a woman dies nearly once every two hours from cervical cancer. Kristof believed this should be a national scandal.
“When nearly a dozen women die a day of something so preventable — far more than are killed by, say, terrorism — you’d think we’d be urgently trying to save lives,” he stated. I was in disbelief. Certainly, something could be done about this.
At the time I read the article, I was in a graduate program receiving my Masters in Public Administration. Just about everyone in my cohort worked in a public sector job, except for me. One student worked for the Department of Transportation. Another student worked for the Department of Public Health. Another worked for the Department of Higher Education. I was surrounded by talented young people who had immersed themselves in public service, and it inspired me. Where do I want to focus my time and attention, I thought to myself? I had always been passionate about social issues, but I felt particularly drawn to women’s issues. When it came time to pick a topic for my capstone thesis, I thought back to the New York Times article. I decided to research the ways in which cervical cancer screening rates could be improved, particularly among low-income, minority women, who experience the highest rates of cervical cancer mortality.
I surveyed and interviewed employees at the State Department of Public Health, community health centers, and various non-profit organizations. I asked about the barriers women face in obtaining cervical cancer screenings, and learned that the most significant barrier is a lack of health education. Many women are unaware of why cervical cancer screenings are beneficial, when they should begin screening, and how often they should get screened. Unfortunately, this can lead to cervical cancer that isn’t caught until late stage.
The fortunate news is this can be easily prevented through proper women’s health education. Healthcare providers can educate patients, schools can provide health education to students, and state Public Health Departments can educate local communities. When women are educated about healthcare, they become empowered, allowing them to succeed and reach their goals.
Researching this topic was eye-opening. Many people are working to educate women in regards to their health: patient navigators, community health workers, healthcare providers, public officials, and more. It inspires me to spread the word about the importance of proper health education for women and girls. I encourage others to do the same. The world needs women who are educated, healthy, and living their dreams.
Grace Malloy is a 28-year-old living in the Greater Boston area, with interests in writing, public service, and women’s rights. While working as a software support specialist, she received her Masters Degree in Public Administration – a challenging yet fulfilling experience. She aspires to use her strengths and passions to make a positive impact on her community.