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Your role in women’s health

Dear doctor, I am in my late 30s and I take my health seriously. I get frustrated whenever I encounter women whose health could be better. Any roles I can play to help other women with their health?

It is not every day that you encounter someone who is selfless, and shows concern not just about their own health but that of others as well. This is a very novel endeavor, and should be encouraged. Yes, there is lots you can do to improve the health status for the community as a whole.

You are right to start with yourself. You can only help others improve their health status if you are already in good health yourself. This means leading a healthy lifestyle that includes being up to date with all screening tests, maintaining a normal weight, being physically active, and avoiding ingesting toxic stuff. Such initiatives must be combined with ready access to healthcare in terms of well-equipped facilities and affordability.

Once you make yourself a model for health, you readily qualify to be on the lookout for others. Your starting point can be whatever you want. You may choose an initial personalized approach to family and friends who are closest to you. Putting in a word here and there for the benefits of, say cervical cancer screening, can bring about behavioral change and motivate some to get screened. You can then work your way up to promoting healthy behavior in other women forums, for example social media groups or investment clubs that you may be a member of.

As your confidence grows in helping others achieve their health goals, you could elevate yourself to some sort of health champion or advocate. You don’t really need the resources that other health champions, like the First Lady, have. Your voice and activities in carefully selected audiences will do. You can for example lobby your County to increase budget allocation for health. Such activities can be rewarding in terms of improving healthcare facilities, hiring healthcare workers, and ensuring healthcare commodities are always in good supply.

Who benefits from your initiatives? Well, almost everybody. Personalized efforts will often have a ripple effect, and health benefits will go far beyond your immediate personal contacts. Broader efforts, like advocacy, will translate into better healthcare for the most deserving. Those down at the community level hardly have any healthcare choices, they make do with what is available. And contend with inevitable poor outcomes when they get ill. Having a voice for them, and encouraging them to embrace healthy behavior will surely get some of them on the right side of health.

What’s in it for you? You could view it as a personal social responsibility, or a calling to do good. The rewards may not be immediately obvious, but they are bountiful.

Dr Alfred Murage is a Consultant Gynecologist and Fertility Specialist.amurage@mygyno.co.ke

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