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Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need: NWHN joins forces with MergerWatch and Avery Institute to make a difference.

It's sometimes said that public interest in health care for all goes through cycles--every 15 years or so, there's a new drive to bring universal health care to this country. Some efforts have been more successful than others, but so far, none has fully succeeded. Good outcomes have included programs that expanded access to care and improved the health of significant numbers of people: Medicare in 1960s, for example, or the State Children's Health Insurance Programs (SCHIP) in the 1990s. Yet, each time, the political opportunity to make a full commitment to guaranteeing health care for everyone has slipped away. The cycle has come around, and once again there is a lot of activity around health care access and coverage. Is this the effort that will finally accomplish health care for all? What will it take to succeed when so many past efforts have failed to accomplish this ultimate goal?

It will likely take a lot of things--including electing political leaders committed to change--but there's one crucial element that the women's health movement is uniquely positioned to supply: the active involvement of women speaking out about their own and their families' needs. Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need is a new initiative that aims to catalyze and support the involvement of women in efforts to secure health care for all. It is a collaborative effort of NWHN, the Avery Institute for Social Change, and the MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst. All three organizations are committed to health care for all and have deep experience working with communities whose health care needs are not being adequately met. We created the Raising Women's Voices initiative because of our shared belief that women's needs will only be fully met by a health care reform effort in which we are active participants. Lois Uttley, director of MergerWatch explains, "The goal of Raising Women's Voices is to raise women's voices in state and national debates over health care reform, so that women's perspectives about their health care needs and those of their families can be powerfully articulated, genuinely considered, and incorporated into health care reform plans."

How will Raising Women's Voices accomplish this? By using the approaches that have succeeded in making change in other aspects of women's health--listening to women's descriptions of their experiences and their concerns and developing policies that meet those needs. Bringing interested women together at conferences to be inspired, become informed and learn organizing skills. Sharing lessons from successful efforts from one part of the country with activists in other areas. Partnering with coalitions with similar social justice goals and educating them about women's needs. Developing and supporting new leaders who are passionate about women's health and determined to make health care for all a reality. As Byllye Avery, founder of both the Avery Institute and the National Black Women's Health Project, said to an audience of activists, "It's time to rev up the women's health movement again. Health care for all is our issue. We're the ones who have to make it happen."

For more information about Raising Women's Voices, including the national conference planned for April 18-19, 2008 in Boston, MA, visit the website at, or contact NWHN at 202.347.1140.
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Publication:Women's Health Activist
Date:Nov 1, 2007
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