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Health Network Strives for Excellence in Women’s Health Care


Reprinted with permission from NurseZone.com.

In 1996, a group of physicians, nurses, and healthcare consumers were sitting around a kitchen table in Allentown, Pennsylvania, discussing what keeps women from getting needed health care. Their conclusion was that too often healthcare providers forget that women are more than their bodies.

Out of a conviction that medical care needed to respect a woman’s spirit along with her body, Spirit of Women was born.

Today, that original kitchen-table idea—first launched at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Allentown—has grown into a network of hospitals and healthcare providers across the United States that ascribe to standards of excellence in women’s health, education, and community outreach.

“The driving goal of Spirit of Women is to transform a woman’s perception of health care from one of apprehension to one of accessibility. We design programs that decrease apprehension and increase access—bringing women together in joyful settings. One of our mottos is that ‘health is action,’” explained Tanya Abreu, president and national program director of Spirit of Women Health Network.

“Nurses, including chief nursing officers, clinicians, and staff nurses are very much the backbone of Spirit of Women,” Abreu stated. “They understand what it is to navigate a patient out of their fear and onto a healthy track, and that has been the foundation of our success over the last decade.”

Spirit of Women provides its coalition of hospitals with strategies to speak to women in authentic ways and to provide them with experiences that are fun. Member hospitals can choose from a toolbox of programs and resources that are customizable to their context.

One of the most popular programs, Day of Dance, is held in February with the goal of raising awareness about heart and vascular disease—the number one cause of death among women in the United States.

In 2009, approximately 75,000 people in 68 communities participated in the fifth annual event, which combined “the fun of dancing with health screenings and consumer education on heart disease and other leading women’s health issues,” according to a Spirit of Women press release. Music and dancing are tailored to reflect regional preferences.

Tucson Medical Center (TMC) in Arizona recently became a Spirit of Women member hospital because they wanted to be seen in their community, not just as a place to receive acute care, but a resource for whole-life wellness.

“Several years ago I saw a Spirit of Women presentation and I felt it spoke to me as a woman. After that I looked at their website and saw that it was a great marketing resource, as well as a source of information on how to reach women of all ages in our community,” said Annette Lindeman, RN, MBA, director of patient care, women and children, at TMC.

“One of the attractions for me was that Spirit of Women recognizes that every age is a little different for women and tailors their programs to reach women in different phases of life,” she said.

“The theme we are using this year is ‘Move with Spirit,’” Lindeman continued. “For the community launch of Spirit of Women, we hosted an event centered on getting people moving by connecting them with running, golfing, dance, and other activity-based groups in our community. We also offered free blood pressure and bone density screenings.”

“Another event we have coming up, called ‘How Do You Wear Your Genes?,’ is focused on identifying what illnesses people have a predisposition for and educating them about how to diminish their risk factors for those diseases. What we want is to encourage people to take control of their own health.”

Currently there are 85 Spirit of Women coalition hospitals in 31 states. Within 24 months of becoming a member, hospitals are expected to meet the Spirit of Women national standards for excellence in women’s health, which highlight diversity, accessibility and serving women’s health and wellness across all age groups. These standards were developed in corroboration with the Office on Women’s Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

For more information, visit the Spirit of Women website.

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