Oftentimes, women are the caretakers and CEOs of their families’ health needs, but sometimes that comes at a cost to their own well-being. According to the National Institute of Health, women make nearly 80% of the health care decisions for their families.
But who is there to help advocate for their health care needs?
Nearly half of American women responding to a recent survey said they had skipped a preventive health care appointment, such as an annual checkup, vaccine or recommended screening, during the last year. Improving access to this type of preventive care is crucial, given women who are caregivers may be at greater risk for poor physical and mental health, including depression and anxiety.
“Women tend to put their own health care needs far down on their list of priorities,” said Dr. Donna O’Shea, an OB/GYN and chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare. “We need to change that by supporting women and encouraging them to consistently invest in their well-being, which may help enable them to more effectively show up for their friends, family members and colleagues.”
To help support women’s health and the women in your life, it may help to first assess the stage of life they’re in, as needs vary over time.
Adolescence: A focus on healthy eating, regular exercise and adequate sleep is vital as young girls reach their teenage years. Encouraging this healthier behavior early on can also help them create habits that can lead into adulthood. Finding a gynecologist to help monitor the specific needs of a young woman can be an important step to ensuring she has comprehensive care through this stage.
Equally important is a focus on behavioral health. Recent research shows 57% of teen girls in the U.S. felt “persistently sad or hopeless” in 2021, which is double what boys in their age group reported. Tapping into a variety of solutions, including self-care resources and virtual care, may help address these issues in ways that are more comfortable, convenient and affordable.
Early adulthood: As women reach their 20s, 30s and 40s, the prevalence of chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes increases1. Lifestyle changes and a focus on overall health may help lower the risk, including:
— Exercising regularly
— Healthier eating
— Managing stress
— Avoiding or quitting smoking
— Limiting or abstaining from alcohol
— Monitoring blood pressure
— Managing blood sugar and lowering cholesterol
For women looking to expand their families, access to quality preconception, prenatal and post-natal care is paramount as this type of support can help improve outcomes for both moms and babies. This care can also help with maternal mental health needs, which is crucial considering 1 in 8 women experience symptoms of postpartum depression after giving birth. For the 15% of couples who experience infertility, dedicated support and benefits through your workplace health plan may increase the chances of a successful pregnancy and delivery.
Late adulthood: At this point in life, for most women, more frequent screenings are usually recommended to help reduce the risk of certain cancers or chronic conditions, helping to encourage earlier detection and proactive treatment. This may include mammograms, colonoscopies, cervical cancer screening, regular blood pressure monitoring and testing for prediabetes.
In addition, women may be managing the different stages of menopause, which can affect health in various ways. It also becomes more important to maintain strong social connections, as interpersonal relationships can have an incredible impact on one’s overall well-being.
Caring for the women in our lives can mean more than celebrating them on special occasions. It can mean supporting them with time and resources to prioritize her health and well-being all year long.
1 UnitedHealthcare National Accounts book of business, Oct. 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2022.