For National Women’s Health Week, FDA Resources Help Women Make Informed Health Choices

By: Marsha B. Henderson, M.C.R.P.

“Ask your mother.” In households throughout the country, women often make decisions about foods and medical products for themselves and their loved ones.

8547850411_6e188c4b11_o-1As we celebrate National Women’s Health Week (May 11-17), I want to highlight some of the many ways in which FDA is working to make sure that women have the resources they need to make informed health choices.

FDA’s Office of Women’s Health (OWH) offers educational resources to help women at every stage of their adult lives—covering topics that range from college health to healthy aging. We develop and disseminate easy-to-read health materials and educational videos for women. We also connect women to these resources and other safety information on the FDA’s For Women website.

Throughout this week, OWH will be conducting special health promotions to connect women to resources on how to stay healthy. Starting today, women can order a free kit of OWH health materials on topics including mammograms, sleep problems, pregnancy, and contact-lens care. OWH is also collaborating with FDA’s Office of Communications to share tips for new mothers and other resources.

Lastly, we’re using social media to challenge women to take better care of their health. Encourage the women in your networks to follow us on Pinterest for a special challenge and health tips each day of the week. Use #1wk4health to participate.  In addition, follow @fdawomen and join us on May 13 at 1 pm for a Twitter chat we are co-hosting with the National Institute of Health’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and Office of Research on Women’s Health; the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Minority Health; and Everyday Health.

Once the week is over, I hope you will continue to look to FDA for women’s health resources. Encourage the women in your community to read our health materials, watch a video or participate in one of our social media activities.

Marsha B. Henderson, M.C.R.P., is FDA’s Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health

National Women’s Health Week: The Dangers of Using Tobacco Products

By: Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D.

The health of every American is of the utmost importance to the Food and Drug Administration, which regulates the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products.  Our Center for Tobacco Products works to improve public health, with the goal of making sure that tobacco-related death and disease is part of America’s past, not its future. Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D.National Women’s Health Week, May 13-19, provides an opportunity for us to reach out and remind the women in our lives about the dangers of tobacco use and exposure to second-hand smoke — which claims the lives of nearly 200,000 women every year.

Never starting to use tobacco products and quitting tobacco use – for those who do use tobacco – is proven to lead to longer and healthier lives for everyone.

There is no question that tobacco use is dangerous to women. Just consider a few of the facts:

  • An estimated 173,940 women die every year due to cigarette smoking
  • An estimated 18,000 non-smoking women die every year from exposure to second-hand smoke
  • Smoking causes almost 80% of lung cancer deaths in women
  • Smoking causes cervical cancer and eight other cancers
  • Smoking causes infertility and poor pregnancy outcomes
  • Smoking causes low bone density and hip fractures in women

National Women’s Health Week is the perfect time for you — or one of the important women in your life — to break a dangerous addiction to tobacco, and for those who do not use tobacco, it is a time to be empowered to never start. Need help? Here are some great resources:

When we spend countless hours taking care of our families and friends, it’s far too easy to forget to look after our own health. This coming week, make an investment in yourself and the women who are close to you by committing to a life that’s free of tobacco-related disease and death.

Lawrence R. Deyton, M.S.P.H., M.D., is the Director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products

FDA’s Role in Promoting Women’s Health

By: Marsha Henderson, M.C.R.P.

For one week in May, the nation celebrates women’s health. I often find at these celebrations that no one mentions FDA. This is unfortunate, because throughout its 100-year history FDA has played a leading role in advancing women’s health. 

Marsha Henderson, M.C.R.P.In its early years, the Agency worked to ban harmful, addictive and poisonous tonics that were marketed as cure-alls for women. Later, FDA worked to help women avoid public health tragedies like the serious birth defects seen in many countries where pregnant women used thalidomide – a drug that was not approved in the U.S. thanks to Dr. Francis Kelsey, an FDA medical officer.

When I joined FDA in the 1990’s, the Agency was working hard to remove regulatory barriers that limited our understanding of how medicines and medical devices affect women. We changed the regulations. We partnered with NIH, academia, advocacy groups, and drug companies to support women’s health research. We also developed strategies to increase the number of women included in clinical trials for new medical products. These activities helped all of us learn more about the ways sex differences affect the safety and usefulness of FDA-regulated products.

During this time, I also helped launch the Take Time to Care Outreach Program. Through this program, FDA has been able to use creative partnerships and innovative outreach tools like telenovelas to connect millions of women with reliable information they can use to make better health decisions for themselves and their families.   

All of these efforts have helped to protect and promote the health of women – leading the way to improved policies and greater awareness about vital women’s health issues such as diabetes, mammography, and medication use during pregnancy.  We have made great strides; however, there is still much work to be done. FDA will continue to promote policies, research and educational initiatives that advance women’s health.

During this year’s National Women’s Health Week, I thank FDA employees and our external partners for their continued service to women’s health. I also encourage the nation’s health professionals and the women they serve to look to FDA for women’s health resources.  We are here for you. 

Marsha Henderson, M.C.R.P., is FDA’s Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health