Director’s Blog: Winter 2018

Each year, when December comes around, people tend to reflect on the past year, sometimes through thoughtful reflections on progress, challenges or accomplishments, at times through lists of the best or worst and often culminating in resolutions for next year. Sometimes it takes the form of satire, such as the Center’s entry in the DGHI door decorating contest, which asks for some good news for reproductive health for Christmas, providing some tongue-in-cheek examples of what that would be. Indeed, 2018 was a roller coaster for global reproductive health news—key achievements, such as the repeal of the anti-abortion amendment in Ireland, often seemed to be immediately overshadowed by setbacks, such as the failure of a similar bill to pass in Argentina. Konyin Adewumi, DGHI MSc ’17, has reflected on the ups and downs of reproductive health this past year. While acknowledging that this year was difficult for many women, she concluded with overall optimism about the progress on women’s health and...
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Egyptian women participant in run to show to campaign for end to Gender Based Violence

Egyptian women participant in run to show to campaign for end to Gender Based Violence

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 In late November 2018, hundreds of women participated in a race in Cairo, Egypt in support of a campaign to end sexual violence. The race was planned after Cairo was ranked as the most dangerous megacity in the world for women. This was determined from a variety of factors, including sexual violence, cultural practices, healthcare, and financial abilities. Women in Egypt often do not engage in athletic activities in public spaces, as they are oftentimes subjected to harassment or assault. The goal of this race was to encourage women and girls to feel safe running and exercising in public spaces in the country.  The third-place winner of the race, Amany Khalil, said “I came to this race today so that all women can run in the street without any fears or worries.” The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights has classified violence against women committed by state institutions, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, and structural violence as...
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Minimally invasive surgery for cervical cancer is a higher risk than the abdominal surgery

Minimally invasive surgery for cervical cancer is a higher risk than the abdominal surgery

Story by Suzanna Larkin, T'19 Cervical cancer screening has greatly reduced its incidence in the United States, resulting in about 13,000 cases a year and 4,000 deaths. It remains the fourth most common cause of cancer death in women worldwide, however, causing over 300,000 deaths per year. Cervical cancer develops after persistent infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV), an extremely common STD.  While later stages are treated with radiation, early stage cervical cancer is commonly treated through surgery.  An increasingly popular method is a minimally invasive surgery performed through small cuts in the abdomen, using either laparoscopy or a robot. This surgery technique is regarded as a medical advancement that lets patients recover faster. Unlike drugs, which are heavily regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, surgery is more adaptive. As long as the hospital allows it, surgeons are able to try new approaches with unconventional tools.  Two recent studies published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that in comparison...
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Study in Sweden shows 3D mammograms detect over a third more breast cancers than standard mammograms

Study in Sweden shows 3D mammograms detect over a third more breast cancers than standard mammograms

Story by Suzanna Larkin, T'19 A large clinical study in Sweden found that 3D mammography is able to detect at least 30% more cancers than traditional mammography, most of which are invasive cancers. 3D mammography, otherwise known as breast tomosynthesis, also reduces the compression on the breast during examination, which may encourage more women to reach out for screening. Traditional mammographies capture all breast tissue in one image. With breast tomosynthesis, the final result is 3D, with several low-dose x-ray images at different angles constructed on the computer to show a model of the breast. This allows for a more precise ability in detecting tumors. On the other hand, 3D mammography also captures more structures in the breast in general, so some women need to be re-examined to ensure there are no tumors. Misdiagnosis remains a risk with traditional mammographies as well. An additional challenge in using 3D mammographies is the lack of radiologists who are able to read the greater...
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Significant decrease in rate of abortion in the United States

Significant decrease in rate of abortion in the United States

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 Data that were recently released from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) indicate that the number of abortions in the United States has decreased by 24% over the last decade. In reporting the data through 2015, the CDC noted that this drop was almost certainly related to a lower number of unintended pregnancies, the largest contributor to induced abortion, as well as increased use of effective contraception methods. The overall trend is not consistent for women of different demographic groups, such as race, class, and marital and motherhood status. While white and black women together make up the vast majority of abortions, black women account for nearly 20 more abortions per 1000 women than their white counterparts. Women who were not married accounted for the majority of those seeking an abortion, as do women who already have children. Over 90% of abortion occur before the 13-week mark and abortions that do not occur during the first trimester...
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New findings show that pregnant women are increasingly likely to be addicted to opioids and methamphetamines

New findings show that pregnant women are increasingly likely to be addicted to opioids and methamphetamines

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 A study recently released in the American Journal of Public Health shows a significant increase in the use of methamphetamines and opioids by pregnant women in recent years.  Usage more than doubled from the 2008-2009 period to the 2014-2015 period, with the greatest increases seen in rural areas. Worse health outcomes, longer lengths of stay, and higher delivery costs are all more common in deliveries relating to amphetamine and opioid use. Additionally, deliveries affected by amphetamine usage were also disproportionately affected by preeclampsia, placental abruption, preterm delivery, and extremely high maternal morbidity. While there is a correlation between opioid usage and these negative outcomes during pregnancy and delivery, the drugs may not be the only factor. Women who are substance-abusers also generally attend fewer prenatal appointments and only receive prenatal care later in the country. This trend of increased amphetamine and opioid usage in the United States is far more common in rural areas of the...
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Canada Reaffirms Commitment to Gender Equity through Action

Canada Reaffirms Commitment to Gender Equity through Action

Story by Alex Lichtl, T'19 Canada is emerging as a world leader of gender equality and sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR), according to Sandeep Prasad, executive director of Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights. The country hosted the 7th International Parliamentarians’ Conference (ICPI) in October and also launched a Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) in June 2017. Marie-Claude Bibeau, the Canadian Minister of International Development, has been a strong advocate for women’s rights and said that since FIAP launched, 93% of Canada’s humanitarian assistance has involved SRHR or women’s empowerment. Minister Bibeau also announced in October that Canada will provide up to $50 million to Palestinian refugees, along with providing International Assistance to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). Although Canada’s official development assistance (ODA) of 0.26 to gross national income is below the 0.7 commitment, Minister Bibeau replied that Canada continues to lead in policies advocating for the most vulnerable populations and in investments for educating women in conflict...
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New UN Report shows global scope of intimate partner violence

New UN Report shows global scope of intimate partner violence

Story by Alex Lichtl, T'19 A report released on Nov. 25, 2018 by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) revealed that nearly 50,000 women were killed last year by an intimate partner or family member and that the Americas were the third-worst globally. A 2017 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also found that in the United States, about 50% of all female homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, family member, or friend. This indicates that many women are being intentionally killed by people they know and trust. Women who leave their partner are also at higher risk for domestic violence, according to a CDC study. The UNODC report called for increased access to services provided by the police and justice department and stressed the importance of education. Rachel Goldsmith, Vice President of domestic violence centers at Safe Horizon, also advocated for restricted access to firearms. Shortly following the release of the report, thousands...
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Over 100 women elected to House of Representatives for the first time and the impact that is expected to have on laws regarding women’s healthcare

Over 100 women elected to House of Representatives for the first time and the impact that is expected to have on laws regarding women’s healthcare

Story by Amelia Steinbach, T'21 The 2018 Midterm results from Election Day on November 6th resulted in historic numbers of women elected to the House of Representatives. For the first time in American history, more than 100 women will be serving as congressional representatives in January of 2019. The elections included several “firsts” – the youngest woman, the first Muslim women, the first Native American congresswomen, and the first black women elected from Connecticut and Massachusetts. Additionally, while the proportion of the Republican caucus that is white men increased, that same proportion in the Democratic caucus decreased to 38%, which is relatively close to the representation of that demographic group in the overall population. Tennessee and Arizona also elected female Senators for the first time in history. Several studies have shown that female legislators are more likely than their male counterparts to sponsor and vote for legislation relating to the needs of families, women, and children. They are generally more liberal about...
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Protections against FGM overruled by federal judge in US

Protections against FGM overruled by federal judge in US

Story by Amelia Steinbach and Suzanna Larkin, T'21 A recent federal case in Detroit resulted in America’s law regarding female genital mutilation being found unconstitutional. Two doctors were charged with violating a federal law after performing procedures on young girls from Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan. The procedures all occurred in the Detroit area. The law prohibits “knowingly circumcising, excising, or infibulating any part of the labia majora, labia minora, or clitoris of another person who has not attained age 18.” The judge, Bernard Friedman, noted that while he was not in opposition to the protection against the abuse of girls, his interpretation of the Constitution led him to believe that “federalism concerns deprive Congress of the power to enact this statute,” essentially implying that the power to ban female genital mutilation and cutting must be left to state legislatures. Friedman’s decision dismisses almost all of the charges against the doctor. Michigan is one of 27 states which currently criminalizes FGM, but...
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