Raising Women’s Voices: A Women’s Vision for Quality, Affordable Health Care for

Executive Summary

This paper outlines five central principles to ensuring that health care reform meets the needs of women, their families, and their communities.

A collaborative initiative of the Avery Institute for Social Change, MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst And the National Women?s Health Network
 
 
Why a women?s vision?
Women have much at stake in debates over health care reform at the local, state and national levels. The U.S. health care system often fails to meet women?s health care needs. It has created tremendous challenges for the women who coordinate health care for our families, who are the majority of health care workers in this country, and who themselves often live with chronic health conditions and disabilities. It is equally important to note that successful health care reform must have the support of women. Research shows that both men and women see women as key health decision-makers for families. Women understand the importance of good quality health care and getting the best value at the best price. They believe in equity, fairness and the basic principle that everyone should be afforded access to the health care they need. In order to be successful, any effort at reform must address the health care concerns that women have for themselves and their families.

Who are the women who have shaped this vision?
Raising Women?s Voices has been working with community partners to hold small-group discussions with women from across the lifespan and from a range of racial, ethnic, economic and disability backgrounds and diverse sexual identities. We have asked these women to talk about their experiences with health care and, based on those experiences, what changes they would like to see. We have spoken with teens learning about their bodies and sexuality; young women navigating the transition from education into the workforce; new mothers, reflecting on modern maternity care; recent immigrants to the US; women who are victims of domestic violence; women who have experienced divorce or widowhood; middle-aged women struggling to coordinate care for older relatives; older women coping with chronic illnesses; and women of all ages who are living with disabilities. In addition to these groups, we have consulted with colleagues and members of the RWV Advisory Board, who work on these issues is many diverse communities around the country. These principles are informed by the thoughtful responses of community members and expert advocates alike.
 
What kind of health reform do women want?
In these conversations, girls and women have consistently identified several key concerns: making quality health care affordable for individuals and families; making sure that everyone is eligible for health care and that coverage can move with people as jobs, family structures, and personal situations change; prohibiting refusal of health care for pre-existing conditions, such as pregnancy, breast cancer, diabetes, arthritis, or back problems; providing greater choice of types and levels of providers, such as midwives; developing programs to improve cultural competency and address health care disparities; and establishing rules to guarantee that health care institutions and health care professionals will provide requested services.

The five central principles outlined here can guide health care reform to better meet the needs of women, our families and our communities. These principles give life and depth to the assertion that health is a human right. Health care policy that is rooted in these principles will be informed by the practical, ?kitchen table? wisdom that women bring to these issues. It will also create a health system that ensures our collective health. Empowered by principles that explicitly define a women?s vision of our health care needs, women will be prepared to raise our voices for quality, affordable health care for all.

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