But, I confess, I find it hard to practice what I preach. How am I managing my own health at 40-something with a weakening pelvic floor and penchant for indulging with a glass of wine and unhealthy food while watching Netflix?
The truth is that I spend so much time taking care of everyone else that my own care can seem like an afterthought.
I’m hardly unique as a busy woman, and, in many ways, I’m lucky to be based in the District. The District is known as one of the best cities for working women and in 2019 enjoyed the second-lowest gender wage gap in the United States. Working women are celebrated, and businesses are building themselves around them — including two new, stunning, women-only co-working spaces.
You would think that one of the benefits of this urban oasis for working women would be infinite great health-care options. Unfortunately, that is wrong. Our health care remains disappointing and disjointed and as inconvenient as sitting in traffic on the Beltway.
Women wait more than 38 days to see a new primary-care physician and 17 days for a gynecology or obstetric appointment. Taking my dog to the vet or my car for a tuneup is easier than getting a basic annual exam.
A quarter of working women lack time and workplace flexibility to make traditional clinician hours work. We just can’t get there at 10:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. And it’s not only women working outside the home who are busy — women are running their households, caring for their children and contributing time to our community. As a result, we aren’t getting the care we need.
Forty-five percent of 18- to 29-year-olds report that they don’t have a regular primary-care doctor, and more than 50 percent of women in the D.C. area are getting their primary care from a gynecologist or obstetrician. This is a far cry from consistent, comprehensive care. When we are all closely examining equality, diversity and inclusion, disparities in health outcomes for women are increasingly concerning.
The simple fact is that we are different from men when it comes to health. We experience pain differently, we have different mental health constructs, and our bodies are physically different. Research shows that women have longer lag times to symptoms and are less likely to receive painkillers despite the same level of pain as men. We are seven times more likely to be misdiagnosed during a heart attack, and it’s no secret that, in the District, we are more likely to die during childbirth than in any other developed nation.
It’s time for the health-care industry to do better. Women make 80 percent of health-care decisions in this country. Many take care of everyone around them and juggle careers and jam-packed schedules. We all deserve a health-care system and experience built around our bodies, our lives and our unique needs.
What does that look like? You should be able to schedule an appointment conveniently on your phone while dropping off your kids at school or heading to that big meeting. You should be able to be seen the same day you think you have a urinary tract infection. You should be able to get help with anxiety, pregnancy and abnormal thyroid levels under the same roof, from the highest-quality providers. Doctors should listen and understand your health needs — mental and physical. Decision-making around breast-feeding should be less complicated.
Your health doesn’t have to be so hard to manage. A Pap smear doesn’t have to be cold and uncomfortable. A waiting room doesn’t have to feel stark, and you don’t need to spend all day there. We can have an innovative care model that puts women at the center, making it easy to start out healthy and stay that way. And technology can help make your experience better.
In 2020, convenience and better outcomes are being delivered in almost every consumer service — why not women’s health care?