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The access and efficiency of quality healthcare is a debate of top priority in both medical and political systems. The debate has received major concern especially in the US due to the rising cost of healthcare, where only the rich can have access to efficient, quality health care systems. This has had a great impact in women, whose health needs are numerous compared to men, considering their (women) changing roles in the society. Maintaining a balance between work and family, for instance, is a tough responsibility for women. Understanding women’s health policy issues is therefore fundamental for better management and improvement of health care systems.
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Women’s health policy issues are perse, ranging from family health to domestic violence. The importance of acknowledging women’s health policy is that it provides policy-makers with up-to-date information and allows for interchange of ideas with experts in the field. Issues covered in women’s health policy, apart from the aforementioned family health and domestic violence are such as: reproductive health; access to care; family and medical care; Medicare; women and insurance; women and HIV/AIDS; and last but not least, the challenges faced in coverage and access of health care. (Kaiser family foundation, 2008)
Family leave is a key topic in women’s health policy, basically since women need family leave many times more than men do, due to their reproductive roles. Majority of mature women in most developed countries are working in public or private institutions and the house wife role of women where the husband was the sole bread winner in a family is obsolete. This has resulted in family leave policies becoming a major concern.
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides that covered employers must grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 workweeks of unpaid leave during any 12 month period for one or more of the following reasons; for the birth and care of the new born child of the employee; for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care, to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child or parent) with a serious health condition or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. (The US Department of labour, 2008)
It is worrying that many people do not understand the importance of reproductive rights, which encompass issues such as safer sex, self esteem, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, sexuality and the media, sexuality education and sexually transmitted infections. However, many reproductive rights programs are on the rise. Their major objectives include: to ensure that participants understand the history of reproductive rights; to describe current threats to reproductive rights; to ensure that participants realize the importance of reproductive rights in women’s lives and in the context of a democratic society; and last but not least, to identify ways to impact the future of reproductive rights. (Planned Parenthood, 2008)
According to Medline Plus, domestic violence (also known as battery, partner abuse or spousal abuse) is a type of abuse which involves injuring someone; usually a spouse or partner, but it can also be a parent, child or other family member. Domestic violence is a major concern, since it is the most common cause of injury to women of ages 15 to 44. It is feared that the abuse could be more common than is actually known, because people often don’t report it. Also worth noting is that it happens among people of all ages, and to people of all levels of income and education. (Medline Plus, 2008)
Women and health insurance is a controversial issue with insurance firms and the print media. The controversy is in the fact that women pay more for health insurance. Top papers such as The ABC News, the New York Times and the NBC have criticized insurance companies in the recent past.
In a report by Robert Pear, in the New York Times, women often fair worse than men in the inpidual insurance market, according to Senator Max Baucus. The insurer’s reason for charging different premiums is that women aged 19 to 55 tend to cost more than men because they typically use more health care, especially in the child bearing years. It is however disturbing why women still pay more than men for insurance that does not cover maternity care. (Pear R., the New York Times, 2008)
A significant issue in women’s health policy which has not received the attention it deserves is the impact of HIV/AIDS epidemic to women. Originally seen as a disease affecting only gay men, it is worrying that not much improvement has been made since the late 20th century. Infected women were disadvantaged, as they failed to get information and support, since most services been established by men and for men. Moreover, doctors and other professionals were often unprepared for the particular issues that women would raise (Doyal L. et al, 1994).
A major challenge facing health care in women is underfunding of Medicaid programs. This affects especially the poor, since Medicaid fails to cover a large percentage of them, although it is designed for them. It is worrying that
“as health care costs escalate, Medicaid under funding worsens and federal and state governments are not responding to the growing need for coverage for the poor, including prenatal care, a need unique to women and their children” (Harrington C. et al, 2004)
Women have a critical role in healthcare, where, for instance, they provide the most of the domestic unpaid healthcare in the society. This needs to be appreciated by improving their access to healthcare, sensitizing employers on family rights, improving insurance policies and improving the funding of programs. Effective measures need to be implemented in reforming the health care systems covering women. Reforms such as adopting private sector management practices need to be implemented to ensure that access of quality, inexpensive health care is achieved.
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