Closing the Immigrant Women Health Care Gap

May 11th marks the start of National Women’s Health Week. This is an intensive effort aimed at getting women to take care of themselves by getting an Melissa Dyrdahannual checkup and basic screening tests.

As a breast cancer survivor, I don’t hesitate to remind my friends and family about how important these tests are and how much it matters that we take care of ourselves. Of course, it’s easy to talk to those we’re close to about their health care, but there may be others in our lives who need to hear from us even more.

I’m thinking of our friends and neighbors who have moved here from other countries. Studies have shown that for various reasons they are less likely to seek out screening tests that can detect disease early, when it is most treatable.

Some of it is likely a result of being busy and preoccupied with taking care of their families. Then there are added hurdles including language barriers, cultural concerns about privacy, lack of transportation and lack of insurance. On top of it all, those of us who know how important it is to take care of our health and who could help these women may not realize that they need us.

What I’ve noticed in talking with women about their health care is that even when we know we should get a checkup or get a screening exam, we too often put it off. A comment from a friend, however, can make a difference. When someone we know urges us to get the care we need, we’re a little more likely to do it.

With the attention on women’s health this week, I hope we can be more proactive in being aware of and reaching out to all of the women in our lives. Let’s talk to them about whether they’re getting the health care they need and see what we can do to help.

Maybe they could use a ride or help with arranging a translator. Maybe they need some information on what tests to take or how to find a facility and make an appointment.  Maybe they just need to know how much it matters to you.

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