By Adam Turner
Since as far back as the American Revolution, politicians and the public have welcomed soldiers home from war with promises of cutting edge medical knowledge, comprehensive rehabilitation, and ongoing care as compensation for their service. Just as often, though, these promises have gone unfulfilled in the face of their enormous expense. The history of the veteran's health system thus has been one of best intentions and poor funding.
by Andrea Milne
Everybody and their sister is blogging about the Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby ruling, so I’ll spare you all the gory details, if for no other reason than to preserve my sanity. Here, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, are the most important things you need to know:
By Carolyn Herbst Lewis
Recently, I taught my first upper-level course on the history of health and medicine in the United States. The course readings covered a broad base, both chronologically and thematically. The discussions that emerged from two of the assigned texts, however, really stand out in my memory. In fact, in retrospect, I can see that they shaped the emergence of an unexpected theme in the course: a critique of both the concept and rhetoric of wellness that is so prevalent in contemporary American workplaces, including many college campuses.
by Sarah Handley-Cousins
For much of this past year, I’ve been entrenched in dissertation research. Despite the long hours hunched over dusty papers, trying to decipher century-old handwriting, generally while cold and hungry, I’m not complaining. I’m continually amazed that I’m getting the opportunity to do exactly what I’ve always wanted: the work of history. What I wasn’t prepared for, necessarily, was the emotional work that would come along with it.
by Lara Freidenfelds
As we wait for the Supreme Court to render a decision on the Hobby Lobby contraception coverage case, I have been pondering the historical relationship between contraception and health care. Is it obvious that contraception should be considered part of “health care?” And would it be possible to decide that it isn’t, but still make it affordable and available? This case seems, to me, to rest largely on whether we think contraception counts as health care. The justices are wary of an outcome that would allow employers to decline to pay for blood transfusions or routine vaccinations, even if an employer might genuinely have religious reservations about those procedures. Those are clearly health care. Contraception, though, seems different. It is prescribed for healthy people, and it does not cure or prevent disease (at least not directly).
by Karla Erickson
Some mornings I wake up very early with my son, Erik. In those quiet pre-dawn hours, I imagine that I can hear the human world awakening: a truck driver trudges out to his truck amidst the hissing of the engine; a farmer wakes before the roosters to spread feed for her chickens and goats; a coffee shop worker switches on the lights, grinds the beans, brews the coffee; parents like me who rock babies or stroke fevered foreheads, and all the people—children, spouses, home care workers and elder care workers—rise to care for the old and ailing. Chaplains sit with those who may not live until dawn, nurses’ aides who raise beds, pick out clothes, slide on shoes, offer water and coffee, and inquire “How did you sleep, Gloria? Was it a good night?” I think about the rustling of bodies, old and young, who are being helped lovingly and willfully to rest comfortably as the sun rises.
by Nicole Foti
You may have noticed the recent hype surrounding the “little pink pill” or “pink Viagra,” a pill used to treat female sexual dysfunction, or FSD, a condition affecting nearly 50 million women nationwide. The FDA’s latest rejection of the drug flibanserin has caught the attention of a number of media outlets and women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women (NOW), who are questioning the motives behind this decision. Why does the FDA refuse to approve any drugs for women with sexual dysfunction, while men have five to choose from, plus another nineteen generic brands of these drugs? After reading many articles indicating that FSD was, in fact, an epidemic affecting millions of women (possibly myself included) and that the FDA was being outright sexist in their reluctance to approve drugs to treat it, I decided to do a little research. Instead of finding answers though, I seem to be left with questions. One in particular is: what are we treating here anyways?
By Lara Freidenfelds
Miscarriage rarely makes the news, except in tabloids. But last year, Virginia state Senator Mark Obenshain’s ill-advised attempt to require Virginia women to report all miscarriages to the police contributed to his failure to become Virginia’s state attorney general. The bill, introduced in 2009, haunted his race for the position. Obenshain was trying to demonstrate his moral outrage over the case of a frightened teenager who had given birth to a premature stillborn baby, and disposed of it in a dumpster. It was a tragic case, to all observers. But instead of asking how his state could better provide sex education and contraception, or provide support to teens who get pregnant, he wrote a bill aimed at surveillance and punishment. On penalty of up to a year in prison, women would be required to report all incidences of fetal demise occurring outside a physician’s supervision to the police. They were to report the pregnant woman’s name and the location of the remains, and would not be allowed to dispose of them without police supervision.
by Nicole Lock
I didn’t discover my clitoris until I was a freshman in high school. It may have been mentioned in some measly sexual education class, but it definitely failed to register as the only organ with a purely pleasurable function. If the teacher had mentioned that over 8,000 nerve endings exist on the clitoral glands alone, while the internal structure had bulbs and legs that were also sources of pleasure, my ears definitely would have perked up. The clitoris has a history of being glossed over, not just in sexual education courses, but also in medical research. It wasn’t until 1998, when urologist Helen O’Connell published her findings regarding the internal structure of the clitoris, that the medical world finally had a true understanding of its size and scope. The organ, so central to female pleasure, has endured a long history of cultural and social norms that have hindered its appreciation and understanding. The Western history of the clitoris has many lessons to teach us about the ways female sexuality has been misled, discounted, oppressed, and even enjoyed.
By Cara Jones
There is a problem with women’s health today. I’m not talking about breast cancer, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or menopause. I’m not even talking about violence against women, mental health, aging, or fitness and nutrition, some of the featured women’s health topics on womenshealth.gov. What I’m talking about is a language problem: the problem is that women’s health is called, well, women’s health. Don’t get me wrong. These are serious issues that require careful attention. And yet, I’m beginning to wonder if we should re-think the category of “women’s health” in general. There is something fundamentally flawed with the way “women’s health” issues are primarily sexual and reproductive, and centered around appearance and the home.