Maine CDC Press Release

May 12, 2004

Maine Celebrates National Women’s Health Week

Contacts: Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH Newell Augur
  Director, Bureau of Health Office of Public & Legislative Affairs
  Department of Human Services Department of Human Services
  Tel:  (207) 287-3270 Tel: (207) 287-1921
  TTY: (207) 287-8066 TTY: (207) 287-4479

Augusta – The Department of Human Services is reminding women across the state to take preventive steps to improve their health in conjunction with National Women’s Health Week. This annual nationwide initiative, now in its fifth year, highlights some of the steps women can take and promotes general awareness and understanding of women’s health issues. Governor John E. Baldacci signed a proclamation recognizing Women’s Health Week in Maine earlier this week.

John R. Nicholas, Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, noted that getting regular health check-ups is one of the most important measures women can take to improve their health. “Many of the fatal and debilitating illnesses women suffer from can be successfully prevented or treated if detected early,” Commissioner Nicholas said. “Providing encouragement and assistance to women to get those check-ups is one of the most valuable gifts you can give them.”

The importance of regular health checks is even more significant in light of data, recently compiled by DHS’s Bureau of Health, identifying the five primary causes of death among Maine women in 2003. They are heart disease (24%), cancer (24%), stroke (8%), chronic lower respiratory disease (7%) and Alzheimer’s disease (5%).

Heart disease claimed the lives of 1,520 Maine women in 2003. Cancer was responsible for the deaths of an additional 1,515 people, with lung cancer being the leading cancer cause followed by breast cancer. Sadly, many of those deaths could have been prevented and the illness treated through regular health check ups.

Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director of the Bureau of Health, noted that one of the best habits a woman can have to develop better health is getting regular check-ups and asking her health care provider about screenings for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases. “Maintaining regular check-ups, combined with being physically active, eating a healthy diet and not smoking, is essential for improving women's health.”

Dr Mills added that some women need certain screening tests earlier, or more often, than others. “During their check-ups, women should discuss with their health care professionals which of the tests are right for them, when they should have them, and how often,” Dr. Mills said.

In particular, women should consider the following screening tests:

·Mammograms every 1 to 2 years starting at age 40
·Pap Smears every 1 to 3 years if sexually active or are older than 21
·Cholesterol Checks regularly, starting at age 45 (If a smoker, diabetic, or if heart disease runs in the family, cholesterol checks should start at age 20)
·Blood Pressure checked at least every 2 years
·Colorectal Cancer Tests starting at age 50
·Diabetes Tests if diagnosed with high blood pressure or high cholesterol
·Depression Screening should be discussed with doctor if feeling "down," sad, or hopeless with little interest or pleasure in doing things for 2 weeks straight
·Osteoporosis Tests should start at age 65 to screen for osteoporosis (thinning of the bones); if between the ages of 60 and 64 and weigh 154 lbs. or less, testing should be discussed with doctor
·Chlamydia Tests if age 25 or younger and sexually active-if older, discuss testing with doctor; also, discuss testing for other sexually transmitted diseases with doctor

In further recognition of Women’s Health Week, the federal Office of Women’s Health has released for the first time a database containing extensive women’s health data by age, race and ethnicity at both the county and state level. The database includes mortality and incidence rates for a variety of chronic and infectious diseases, including heart disease, as well as indicators for mental, reproductive and maternal health, violence and abuse, illness prevention and access to care. The database is free to the public and is available on CD-ROM by calling Quality Resource Systems at (703) 352-7393.

Additionally, in an effort to encourage young women to adopt good health habits, the Office on Women’s Health has redesigned its Web site to target girls ages 10-16. The 4Girls website - www.4Girls.gov - features accurate, up-to-date information on health and relationship issues particularly important to young women. A sounding board of 16 diverse young women ages 12 to 17 provided input into the site’s new design.

More information about National Women's Health Week is available on the National Women's Health Week Web site, www.4woman.gov/whw, or by calling toll free, 800-994-WOMAN (9662) (TTY: (888) 220-5446). A free prevention guide, "A Lifetime of Good Health - Your Guide to Staying Healthy," is also available at that number or on the Internet at http://www.4woman.gov/pub/PG.English.pdf.