Reflections on the 2018 Women’s Health Empowerment Summit

Reflections on the 2018 Women’s Health Empowerment Summit
~ by Susan Adler

You may recall that a year ago, I had the privilege of serving as an Ambassador to the inaugural gathering of Hadassah’s Women’s Health Empowerment Summit in Washington, DC.  Hadassah was the catalyst and lead organizer of 23 national organizations that came together to change the conversation about why it is well past time to no longer accept glaring disparities in women’s health in the U.S.   As Hadassah members, we are well positioned to raise our voices and redefine how this country addresses the role women play as the CEOs of their family’s health decisions, as patients who must advocate for more women participants in clinical trials, and as caregivers whose realities call out for new policies to address the myriad of challenges we face daily.

Fast forward one year.  In May 2018, two new and talented Hadassah leaders served as delegates with me at the Second Women’s Health Empowerment Summit. — Board member Kindra Cooper, the first Advocacy Chair for our Chapter, and Corinne Stroum, one of our newest Hadassah member who has just stepped forward to co-lead the launch of our Young Women’s Leadership Initiative.   Below are reflections from each of us on our Health Summit experience.  We plan to develop one or more programs in the months ahead to take what we have learned and bring these discussions directly to our Seattle community.

Susan Adler, President of Seattle Hadassah (Center); Corinne Stroum, Co-Leader, Seattle Hadassah Young Women’s Leadership Program (EVOLVE) (Left); and Kindra Cooper, Chair, Seattle Hadassah American Affairs and Domestic Policy Committee (Right)

Privacy & Information: Women’s Health and Technology Panel
~ Reflection by Corine Stroum

Privacy & Information: Women’s Health and Technology Panel at the National Press Club. Pictured left to right: Broadcast Journalist Judy Woodruff; Former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General/Rear Admiral Dr. Susan J. Blumenthal; Laura Moy, Deputy Director of Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology; Tim Sparapani, Principal at SPQR Strategies; and Marcy Wilder, Partner, Hogan Lovells

I joined Hadassah as a Life Member this year because I believe in the mission of the Hadassah Medical Organization: peace through medicine.  I was not surprised to learn that Hadassah has a strong advocacy and lobbying presence in healthcare.  Given that my career is in the field of healthcare technology, I was right at home at this year’s Women’s Health & Advocacy Conference!

On Tuesday, May 15, the conference began with a passionate panel event on Privacy & Information: Women’s Health and Technology.  The panelists spoke to the dramatic changes that patients and their families have seen since the adoption of electronic medical records.  They cautioned attendees on the risks that are becoming more prominent and how advocacy can keep these risks from becoming a reality.

Vendors who work in health information technology (health IT) adhere to a set of rules, or standards, regarding the representation, transmission, and storage of data.  Standards ensure predictability of, and communication between, different systems.  In recent years, changes to healthcare policy have ensured system redesign and updates to these standards.  The more that an organization can share, and share in a standardized way, the more an individual clinician has the capacity to see a full medical history and timely information on his/her patients.

Advances in health IT have not always corresponded to privacy improvements because data has moved beyond the electronic medical record and clinical settings.  We share health information when using cell phone applications for medical and fitness tracking, participating in online support groups, and completing consumer genetic tests for ancestry details.  All panelists urged attendees to think about the data footprint they leave behind in electronic settings and to understand the risks inherent in a User Agreement.

Our nation needs a redefinition of healthcare information, a refresh to its views on privacy and access to data by patients, and to learn from the failings of consumer data breaches.  The panelists were emphatic that advocacy is the best way to enact change in these policies.  Their priorities for health care legislation included a national initiative for health cybersecurity, data governance, and expanding patient access to data, which traditionally lives with clinicians.

As a Hadassah Life Member, Co-Leader of the Seattle Chapter’s soon-to-be-launched Young Women’s Leadership Program (EVOLVE), member of Seattle Hadassah’s Advocacy Committee, and a healthcare technology professional, I look forward to helping to advance these policy priorities.

Caregiving Across the Lifespan: The Disparate Impact of Caregiving on Women and Opportunities for Change
~ Reflection by Susan Adler

Caregiving Across the Lifespan Panel, 2018 Women’s Health Empowerment Summit. Pictured Left to Right: Jane Heller, New York Times Best-Selling Author; Dr. Yanira Cruz, President and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA); Dr. Tamilyn Bakas, Professor and Jane E. Procter Endowed Chair, University of Cincinnati College of Nursing; Dr. Diana Drake, Chair-Elect, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health (NPWH); Jill Lesser, President, WomenAgainstAlzheimer’s.

Did you know that the profile of a caregiver in this country is a woman between the ages of 45 and 64? She is often at the height of her career. If she is forced to quit, she may face placing her family at financial risk. Who is there to advise her as she struggles to manage the behavior and emotions of stroke survivors, parents with dementia, the demands of children with special needs? Everyone is counting on her. How does she navigate these constant responsibilities and at the same time, make it a priority to take care of herself?

Panelist Dr. Diana Drake, Chair-elect of the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health, explained that women caregivers at midlife face a two times higher risk of heart disease. Few take the time to set up preventative screenings for colon cancer and mammograms. These women are six times more likely to have depression, which can then trigger other disorders.

We learned that there are new resource guides, studies, and strategies for caregivers on how to take of themselves while providing care. There is solid research behind each of these strategies, many of which can be put into immediate action. Counsel doctors, for example, to make it a priority to open a conversation — “Are you a caregiver? Tell me what you are doing as a caregiver?” How many caregivers have been asked that question?

The time to elevate the issues of caregiving to the National level has now arrived. Thanks to Hadassah’s advocacy, the RAISE Family Caregivers Act passed both houses of Congress as bipartisan legislation and was signed into law by the President in 2018. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources is the lead agency for moving these recommendations forward.

On a personal note, 2017 was my year for a deep immersion into caregiving. As New York Times author Jane Heller reminded us on this panel, “realize you are stronger than you were ever capable of being.” I was more fortunate than many because Jacquie Bayley and all the women leaders on our Seattle Hadassah Board knew exactly how to be present for me. I will be following this legislation with great attention. This work matters.

Policy Matters: Hadassah National Assembly 2018 and a Day on the Hill
~Reflection by Kindra Cooper

Photos from Hadassah’s 2018 Day on the Hill. Pictured Left to Right: Susan Adler, President, Seattle Hadassah; Susan Glicksberg, Pacific Northwest Regional Board Member; Corinne Stroum, Co-Leader, Seattle’s Young Women’s Leadership Program (EVOLVE); Kindra Cooper, Seattle Chapter Board Member and Chair, American Affairs and Domestic Policy Committee; and Brandy Moss, Co-President, Hadassah Pacific Northwest.

Hadassah’s 2018 Women’s Health Empowerment Summit was as much about policy as it was about health, health equity, or health care – and with good reason. Whether as an organization or as a nation, our policies tell a story about who are and who we want to be, they articulate our values and our ambitions, and they shape and define the work ahead of us.

On Wednesday morning, May 16, Delegates to the 2018 Hadassah National Assembly – including Seattle Chapter President Susan Adler, Pacific Northwest Regional Board Member Susan Glicksberg, Seattle Chapter Member Corinne Stroum, and myself – debated and passed a trio of new Hadassah policy statements. The measures, addressing gun control, medical marijuana, and affirming our unwavering support for the State of Israel in celebration of its 70th year of independence, are now a part of a Compendium of Zionist & American Affairs Policy Statements that stretches deep into Hadassah’s long advocacy history. As a collection, this compendium of statements captures the nature of our sisterhood: we are Zionist women who love the State of Israel, who value safe and peaceful communities, and who support the promise of better health for all people, and who ardently believe in the promise of medical research.

The following morning, we boarded buses for Capitol Hill armed with talking points on issues including support for Israel and the Jewish Community, women’s health equity, gun violence, and the Export Administration Anti-Discrimination Act – a potential tool in the fight against the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement. Over the course of the day, I and other Seattle chapter members had the opportunity to meet with staff in the offices of Senator Patty Murray and Representative Adam Smith, and briefly with Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. As happens in these meetings, we discussed not only our official talking points, but as we shook hands and settled in around conference tables, also the things that draw us together as Washingtonians: the quilt on the wall in the conference room of Senator Murray, made for her by her last class of preschool students; the effect of the Farm Bill on hungry families in our communities; and inevitably, the difference in rain between “the two Washingtons.”

What struck me most about the policy side of this year’s Health Empowerment Summit, perhaps especially as a first-time attendee, was the appetite for participation I saw in the woman around me. Polished debaters came to the microphone during Wednesday’s National Assembly Meeting, but so did women with shaking voices and trembling hands. During our meetings on the hill, no one in our state’s contingent stayed quiet. We took turns sharing stories with our lawmakers about the things that matter to us most. One of the things that Hadassah does for its members is it demystifies the advocacy process; it debunks the idea that policy is something only for the serious and wonky. It demonstrates that the policy process is for anyone who can muster the courage to say, “Let me tell you what I care about, and why this matters to me.”

My takeaway from this Summit is that Zionist women believe they can change the world in part because they already have – by helping to make possible the modern state of Israel. This is the Power of Women Who Do. Hadassah’s advocacy tools and professionals exist to show us how.