4 Ways to Advocate for Improved Cervical Health All Year Long

According to the CDC, while rates of cervical cancer incidence and mortality have been decreasing1, in 2011, over 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer and over 4,000 lost their lives2. Cervical cancer is preventable by taking steps to avoid contracting the human papillomavirus (HPV) and receiving the recommended screenings at the right times.

The HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer3. The CDC estimates that HPV causes approximately 10,400 new cases of cervical cancer each year in the United States4. Luckily, we can protect our cervical health and prevent contracting HPV by taking the following steps.

1. Get the Pap test (but not too often)!

In 2012, ACOG changed their guidelines regarding Pap tests, now recommending that women receive the test beginning at age 215. From the ages of 21-29, women are advised to receive annual women’s wellness exams, but should only get Pap smears every three years. Women who are 30-65 years old should continue to get Pap tests every three years, or every five years when they receive both the HPV screening test and a Pap smear. After 65 years of age, women who have been “adequately screened” are recommended to stop getting Pap tests6.

 2. Get the HPV Vaccine.

Boys and girls should get the three doses of HPV vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age7. Women who have not been vaccinated are able to receive the HPV vaccine until age 26, and men until age 21. Men who test positive for HIV, and gay and bisexual men are also advised to get the vaccine until age 267.

3. Stay Informed and Inform a Friend.

Guidelines about how often and when to begin receiving screenings change. Stay informed about recommended Pap test schedules and tell your friends and family. If you are under 26 and haven’t been vaccinated, read up about the Cervarix and Gardasil vaccines here7.

 4. Advocate for the Programs that Increase Access to Well-Woman Services

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has increased the affordability of insurance coverage by expanding Medicaid in 28 states8 and providing discounted insurance plans to low-income consumers. Under the ACA, preventative services, like women’s wellness exams and vaccines, are provided by Medicaid and plans through the Marketplace without co-pays. While this is the case, programs and clinics that provide free or low cost preventative health screenings and vaccines are important to the women who remain uninsured (due to the cost or their eligibility) and rely on those programs. Be a women’s health advocate and fight to protect the programs that allow women to be in control of their cervical health!

Programs for Low Cost or Free Pap smears and HPV Vaccines

Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Prevent cervical cancer [Infographic]. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/infographic.htm
References:

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cervical cancer trends. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/trends.htm

2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Cervical cancer statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/statistics/index.htm

3Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). What should I know about screening? Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/cervical/basic_info/screening.htm

4Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Human papillomavirus (HPV) –Associated cancers. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/cases.htm

5The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2014). Cervical cancer screening. Retrieved from http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Cervical-Cancer-Screening

6The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2012). New cervical cancer screening guidelines announced. http://www.acog.org/-/media/Districts/District-II/PDFs/USPSTF-Cervical-Ca-Screening-Guidelines.pdf

7Association for Reproductive Health Professionals. (2012). Health matters fact sheet – Understanding HPV vaccines. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/stdfact-hpv.htm

8Kaiser Family Foundation. (2015). Current status of state Medicaid expansion decisions. Retrieved from http://kff.org/health-reform/slide/current-status-of-the-medicaid-expansion-decision/

Meet Amy Solsman – Current MCH Epidemiology Student

Amy Solsman (right) with a friend in Shalisi, South Africa

Before moving to Chicago to study Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Epidemiology at UIC, Amy Solsman spent two years in Shalisi, a rural village in South Africa, with the Peace Corps teaching math to 120 5th graders. While not a regular element of the math curriculum, Amy taught her students about HIV prevention and contraception. She felt that this was especially important due to the high prevalence of HIV in the area and the relative silence and stigma surrounding the virus in the village. She taught her students about dental hygiene and good tooth brushing habits. Amy also established a Permagarden Committee that created a school garden and provided nutritional education. Her passion to improve the health literacy and the health status of her students was a result from, in part, bearing witness to the unjust, negative consequences of a lack of access to resources and health care.

unnamedAmy said that working for a year at the Boys and Girls Club and her two years as a math teacher in South Africa “helps me keep perspective in the classroom because if you want to make a difference, you have to understand who you are serving.” The skills she is learning at the UIC School of Public Health (UIC SPH) are helping her further put her passion into practice. Amy is MPH candidate with a concentration in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology. She feels that she is getting tangible and applicable skills in research and data analysis, and the Maternal and Child Health Program’s leadership training is better preparing her for the workforce where capabilities in leadership are needed and valued.

Amy chose the Amy 2UIC SPH because of the MCH Epidemiology Program, and because the curriculum incorporates community based participatory research (CBPR) models and has a focus on local, state-wide, and national public health issues. Upon acceptance to UIC, Amy was awarded the Irving Harris Maternal and Child Health Assistantship. As a Research Assistant for the MCHP, Amy has had the opportunity to work on a study with Dr. Arden Handler that focuses on improving the utilization of the postpartum visit for increasing postpartum contraception use.

Written by Cristina Turino, Research Assistant and UIC MPH/MBA Candidate

Janine Lewis, MCHP PhD Candidate, Receives 2015 Young MCH Professional Award from AMCHP

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Maternal and Child Health Program PhD Candidate and EverThrive Illinois Executive Director, Janine Lewis, receiving the 2015 Young MCH Professional Award for Region V at the AMCHP Annual Conference.

 

Attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference

3304ce9In January 2015, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs (AMCHP) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference, titled “United to Build Healthier Communities,” was an opportunity for me to network, learn, and go to Capitol Hill to advocate for the MCH Title V Block Grant.

On Saturday, I began the conference by attending a skills building session focused on community economic development strategies. This session emphasized collaborations, partnerships, and constituency building in expanding our MCH work to focus on economic development as a social determinant. At this session, a group of us from different sectors in Illinois brainstormed different ways in which economic barriers perpetuate inequities for Illinois families.

Other sessions that I attended focused on early childhood, MCH leadership, collaboration in policy and advocacy, systems thinking, and MCH 2015 policy issues. Since the conference brought together leaders from non-profits, universities, and state and local MCH programs, these sessions created rich discussions because of the various expertise and viewpoints. Often, these sessions were interactive and collaborative and I appreciated learning from the leaders of the sessions as well as the attendees.

Monday was the most rewarding day for me at the conference. After attending a session on 2015 MCH policy and discussing the funding needs of MCH programs, I went to Capitol Hill to advocate for Title V along with Dr. Arden Handler, Illinois Title V Director Dr. Brenda Jones, and LEND trainee Ryan Murphy. We visited both Illinois Senator Dick Durbin’s and Senator Mark Kirk’s offices and met with their health aids. We shared information on the importance of the MCH Title V Block Grant and the impactful work happening in Illinois. In addition, we provided resources on UIC SPH’s MCHP program, the LEND program, and other Block Grant specific programs. It was a pleasure to attend this hill visit that Dr. Handler organizes annually. In Dr. Handler’s Advocacy and Policy course, I learned about strategic ways to advocate to a legislator, and this was a prime opportunity for me to practice with a pro!

Throughout this conference, I took advantage of the opportunity of being around so many MCH professionals by networking. AMCHP encourages state programs to learn from their regional peers and the region V (IL, WI, MI, MN, OH, IN) lunch was a chance for us to meet with and learn from these other Title V programs. However, by far, the highlight of my networking efforts was meeting Dr. Michael Lu, Associate Administrator of MCHB! He was a pleasure to speak with and was encouraging of my upcoming step into the MCH workforce. Overall, this conference was a huge success; I tackled my first lobbying experience, made some promising connections, and gained a deeper understanding of the network of Title V programs and the future directions of the Block Grant. I am thankful to UIC SPH MCHP for providing me the opportunity to attend this conference!

Written by Joanna Tess, UIC Maternal and Child Health MPH Candidate

Alumna Success Story–Jessica Bushar Providing Access to Crucial Health Information for Mothers

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Jessica Bushar, MPH
Research Director Text4baby
National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition

Jessica Bushar earned a Master of Public Health in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology at UIC in 2010 and was a recipient of an award from Irving Harris Foundation. Following her graduation from UIC, Jessica was a Principal Research Analyst at NORC at the University of Chicago. In 2012, she began working at the National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition (HMHB) where she now holds the position of Research Director of Text4baby.

Jessica is passionate about her work on Text4baby, which partners with more than 1,200 local, state, and national partners to improve the health of mothers and babies by providing timely, vital health and safety information to mothers by via text message. The Text4baby program has reached over 800,000 pregnant women and new moms and provided them with over 116 million text messages. As the Research Director, Jessica spends much of her time at HMHB working with partners and staff to evaluate Text4baby’s impact and facilitate research informed quality improvement.

Jessica believes her degree in Maternal and Child Health Epidemiology from UIC helped improve her qualitative research skills and gain the competencies needed to make her a well-rounded researcher – skills that have made it possible for her to excel at her position as Research Director of Text4baby. Jessica’s research is implemented in real time to make a widespread positive impact on the lives of moms and babies through easy to access, crucial health information.

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate

Alumna Success Story–Madiha Qureshi Improving Health Outcomes for Mothers & Infants

Madiha Qureshi, MPH
State Director of Program Services
March of Dimes

Madiha Qureshi is the State Director of Program Services at the March of Dimes. As State Director, Madiha oversees the Illinois chapter’s programming and grant making to support state-wide efforts to reduce premature birth, infant mortality, and help mothers have full term pregnancies. She is currently working with maternal and child health leaders, health providers, and stakeholders across Illinois on initiatives to lower early elective deliveries before 39 weeks gestation. The campaign empowers and educates consumers about the importance of letting labor begin on its own and works with hospitals to develop “hard stop policies” and procedures to prevent early elective deliveries. Additionally, under Madiha’s leadership, the Illinois Chapter of March of Dimes is working on increasing bilingual prenatal education programs for expecting mothers and male involvement programming.

Madiha graduated from UIC with a Master of Public Health from the Maternal and Child Health Program (MCHP) in 2009, and she was a recipient of an Irving Harris Foundation Award. Madiha chose to attend the UIC School of Public Health because of her passion for advocating for women and infants, and the strong Maternal and Child Health Program. One of her most formative experiences while at UIC was attending Leadership, Legacy, & Community: A Retreat to Advance MCH Scholarship & Practice Leadership, which was hosted by MCHP through support from the Maternal and Child Health Bureau. The Retreat brought together “amazing leaders from the field” who were truly excited about the work they were doing. This experience solidified Madiha’s commitment to the MCH discipline and helped her form connections with public health leaders in Chicago.

Madiha is making significant contributions to the MCH community through her leadership at the March of Dimes to improve health outcomes for mothers and infants.

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate

MCH Alumna Success Story—Dr. Bozlak Combating Childhood Obesity

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Dr. Christine Bozlak, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor, University at Albany School of Public Health
Department of Health Policy, Management, and Behavior

Dr. Christine Bozlak feels that her choice to attend the UIC Maternal and Child Health Program was “the best thing that could have happened,” because she was given unique teaching experiences, was part of a talented and supportive cohort, and had wonderful mentors who she continues to work with today. After completing her undergraduate and MPH in smaller community settings, Dr. Bozlak decided to do her PhD at UIC partially because of its location. Chicago gave her the chance to work with diverse organizations and communities in an exciting urban environment.

Dr. Bozlak completed her PhD in Maternal and Child Health at UIC in 2010 and received the Peterson Award. She was also chosen as the recipient of the Donaldson Award, the most distinguished award granted by the UIC School of Public Health to an individual that demonstrates leadership, academic excellence, and community service. Dr. Bozlak is now an Assistant Professor at the University at Albany School of Public Health, where she teaches courses to graduate and undergraduate students about the emerging needs of the maternal and child health population, specifically focusing on childhood obesity and adolescent health.

According to Dr. Bozlak, “community engaged research is where public health should be.” She is passionate about community-engaged action research and is working on a book entitled Participatory Action Research with other authors that will be published in 2015 by Oxford University Press. Dr. Bozlak is also collaborating with New York State YMCAs to improve food offered in vending machines, promote breastfeeding, and support the implementation of nutrition and physical activity standards for their child care programs; an effort funded by the Faculty Research Awards Program at the University at Albany.

Currently, Dr. Bozlak is completing an evaluation project with Dr. Maryann Mason at the Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC) of the Chicago Children’s Museum’s Made to Move Program. She is also a co-chair, with Dr. Michele Kelley and Dennis Li, of the American Public Health Association’s Adolescent and Young Adult Health Committee, and a member of the Strategic Alliance for Health at Albany County Department of Public Health. In addition, she is a member of the Leadership Team for the Alliance of New York State YMCA’s Pioneering Healthier Communities grant.

Dr. Bozlak is truly a MCH leader that is providing invaluable contributions to public health practice, community based participatory research, and her local community!

Written by Cristina Turino, UIC Research Assistant and UIC MCH MPH Candidate