Honoring Women & Girls at Fred Hutch on March 10th

Join us on Tuesday, March 10th, to honor National Women & Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day!

hutch event

Date: Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time: 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Where: Weintraub Building, Pelton Auditorium

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

1100 Fairview Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98109

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an annual observance to help raise awareness of the continuing need to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and shed light on the impact that HIV/AIDS has on women and girls. The event will feature a panel discussion with local women who have made a significant difference in the field of HIV. Representing the areas of policy, medicine, research, social services, and faith communities, panelists include:

  • The Reverend Mary Diggs-Hobson from AARTH
  • Dr. Lara Strick from the University of Washington and the Washington Department of Corrections
  • Dr. Connie Celum from the University of Washington
  • Dr. Kathy Brown from Group Health Cooperative
  • Nicole Price from BABES Network-YWCA

We hope to see you there!


Don’t forget to enroll by February 15th!

Since last November, thousands have been enrolling in health coverage for 2015. Don’t miss your chance to sign up for a health plan through Washington HealthPlanFinder. Enrollment ends on February 15th!

Visit Washington HealthPlanFinder to learn more about your options and to enroll in a plan. And if you’d like help signing up for coverage, reach out to a Navigator who can walk you through the steps of signing up.

Know Your Rights

As we begin the new year and consider how we want to live in 2015, it’s a great idea to consider how you want your health to be and any new health care changes coming your way. Maybe you would like to speak with a counselor about stress in your life, are expecting a new baby in the family, or are due for your first mammogram this year.

We meet with medical professionals for help and trust their expertise. But it’s also important to know your rights when it comes to your health care. HealthCare.gov shares information with us about new rights and protections we all have, thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

How the health care law protects you

Here some additional rights and benefits, and information on how to protect yourself from fraud when you apply for insurance:

On top of what HealthCare.gov outlines as protections in the Affordable Care Act, there are protections and rights that directly support people who identify as LGBTQ. In 2014, LGBT HealthLink partnered with PROMO Missouri and lawyer Corey Prachniak to create the Healthcare Bill of Rights - a short document summarizing LGBTQ rights in the healthcare world now.

The creators of the Healthcare Bill of Rights write:

Your personal life and relationships affect your health more than you realize, so your doctor and other providers need to know your story.

We should all feel safe talking about our sexual partners, sex lives, sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity.

  • Learn how to file a complaint if you’ve faced discrimination.
  • See how you can find a medical provider who will respect your rights and identity.
  • Read how you can plan for your future care with a healthcare power of attorney.

Read the Healthcare Bill of Rights here:



Learn more about the Healthcare Bill of Rights and its history here. And if you want your very own copy of the Healthcare Bill of Rights, check out the different versions available here.

Cervical Cancer is Preventable

This month is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a great time for us to educate ourselves about cervical cancer and the importance of screening.

Due to the availability of screening, few women get cervical cancer. However, many women are still not getting screened. Most deaths from cervical cancer can be prevented if more women had tests to find cervical cancer early. No woman should die of cervical cancer in our state.

There is good news:

  • Cervical cancer can often be prevented with regular screening tests (called Pap tests) and follow-up care. A Pap test can catch cervical cancer early, when it’s easier to treat.
  • HPV causes most cervical cancers. The HPV vaccine significantly reduces the risk of cervical cancer. Doctors recommend that both girls and boys get the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12.
  • Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly all health insurance plans cover cervical cancer screening tests at no cost.
  • Women under 40 can contact one of these family planning clinics to ask about free or low cost screenings.
  • Refer low-income, uninsured or underinsured women ages 40-64 to the Breast, Cervical and Colon Health Program (BCCHP).

Who should get screened for Cervical Cancer?

  • Women ages 21 to 65 should get the Pap test every 3 years.
  • Women 30 to 65 may choose to have the Pap test every 5 years if done with an HPV test. When these tests are performed together, it is called co-testing.
  • Women who have had the HPV vaccination should continue to get screened because the vaccine does not prevent all types of cervical cancer.
  • Women who have had a hysterectomy due to cervical cancer.

Educational materials you can use in your community:


Questions? Contact Kendria Dickson at kendria.dickson@doh.wa.gov or 360-236-3598.

Thanks to Public Health – Seattle & King County for the content of this blog post.

Stress Strategies

From coping with the holidays, to dealing with the darker and shorter winter days, to the ongoing stress that results from care-giving, many of us experience stress on a regular basis and have different ways to cope with it.

Today, the Office on Women’s Health and National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine hosted a live conversation on Twitter about stress – they called it a #stresschat. Want to catch up on the conversation? Go here. Many different people and organizations have been participating in today’s conversation on Twitter. Here are some resources people shared that I am finding helpful.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) helps us understand what stress actually is:

Stress is a physical and emotional reaction that people experience as they encounter changes in life. Stress is a normal feeling. However, long-term stress may contribute to or worsen a range of health problems including digestive disorders, headaches, sleep disorders, and other symptoms. Stress may worsen asthma and has been linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses.

NCCAM also talks about relaxation techniques we can all use to reduce tension and address the stress we are experiencing. Different techniques include deep breathing, guided imagery and meditation. Want to learn more? Check out these five things to know about relaxation techniques for stress.

The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health says, “If you’re alive, you experience stress.” How true that is.

A little bit of stress is ok, but chronic stress can have long-lasting impacts on our health. Dr. Susan Lord, a Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member and expert in mind-body medicine, says we can “transform stress by intentionally activating the relaxation response, which increases blood flow to the brain and releases chemicals that make your organs slow down.” And that’ a good thing.

There are seven steps she suggests to activating our relaxation response and increase our mindful living:

  1. Develop self-awareness via yoga and meditation.
  2. Express yourself creatively.
  3. Be here now. Live in the present moment – not too much in the past or the future.
  4. Find community.
  5. Identify stressful thoughts and beliefs. Eavesdrop on your internal dialogue. Just noticing will prepare you to start shifting stressful thoughts and beliefs to more positive ones.
  6. Do experiments: “Identify one concern you have about your life or health, and come up with a new way to deal with it.”
  7. Avoid judgment. Notice when you start to criticize yourself and others, and be kind instead.

These are all great tips that you can use to care for yourself. But what about when you have someone else to care for, as well? AARP talks about when caregivers experience a lot of stress – and what to do to take care of yourself and the other person you’re caring for.

AARP has their own list of 10 tips. Here are just a few!

  • Put your physical needs first. If you’re not caring for yourself (eating well, getting enough sleep, getting regular medical check-ups…), you wont’ be in any shape to care for others.
  • Ask for help.
  • Get organized. Develop a system with calendars and to-do lists to help you stay on top of it all.
  • Take a break. You deserve it. Really.

We all experience significant stress at some point in our lives. It is so important that we take care of ourselves, model self-care to others, and be there for others who may be going through a tough time. What are some strategies that work for you? What is one new thing you plan to try to manage the stress in your life?

Join us at tonight’s World AIDS Day concert!

Every year, December 1st is World AIDS Day – a day when all us around the world unite together in the fight against HIV, show our support for people living with HIV and commemorate those who have died. Learn more about World AIDS Day and how you can get involved here.

Tonight, BABES Network-YWCA will be attending Wo’Pop World AIDS Day Concert – a free KEXP concert – at the EMP Museum. From 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM, join Wo’ Pop host Darek Mazzone for this free, all ages event complete with art, snacks, education, culture, and music provided by Chimurenga Rennaissance, and Thomas Mapfumo & the Blacks Unlimited.

We hope you will join us! RSVP here.


Participating Wo’ Pop World AIDS Day partners: Lifelong, EMP Museum, East African Community Services, Fred Hutchinson, One Vibe Africa, BABES Network YWCATheo Chocolates, and with generous support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

A Time of Thanks!

It is really early in the morning and once again the phone alarm clock is ringing. It has been cold lately and your warm bed with fluffy pillows probably feel quite nice. You would love to snuggle deep under the covers and go back to sleep. Yet like many of us, you have to go to work!

Have you ever taken time to stop and consider how many lives the work you do really affect? Come on, pause for a minute and think about it!

As I prepared to write this post, I instinctively thought of Thanksgiving. No, I didn’t think of the meal I would eat or whether or not the Seattle Seahawks will beat the San Francisco 49ers this week! My mind drifted to the women we serve through Women’s Health Outreach at the YWCA!

Between July 2013 and June 2014, our team of three  provided 7,658 individuals – mostly women – with educational information and materials  regarding breast cancer and the importance of cancer screenings! Of this number, 445 women attended one of our monthly community mobile mammogram events in King County and had a mammogram. As a result of these mammogram events, breast cancer was found and treated in two women! Imagine the sighs of relief and the depths of appreciation from these women and their families.

Even though the people represented above entrusted Women’s Health Outreach with their health care and health education, we could never have done any of it without the Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program of Washington State, the Puget Sound Susan G. Komen Foundation, Swedish Medical Center, or the many donors who contribute dollars to help offset the cost of services provided.

In addition, we are grateful for the churches, schools, mosques, temples, stores, businesses and community centers that allow us to use space in their facilities to work with our patrons. And of course we can never forget our volunteers: Mrs. Etta, Mom Emma Guiterrez, Agnes, Gabby, Jenn and Letitia for supporting the cause, our work and the women we serve.

Finally, we would like to thank our co-workers at the YWCA,  friends, and families for everything done to give our careers a sense of purpose!

Although Women’s Health Outreach is a small program of Health Access within the YWCA of Seattle, we are grateful this Thanksgiving! Please take a few moments and share the things you are thankful for with us and others.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Winter Weather

winterweatherCan you believe it? It’s nearly wintertime. In the past, snowstorms and extreme weather have caught us off guard – and this year, we can all plan ahead to be better prepared.

To be safe on the roads, consult the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Winter Weather Response Map. The map will show you where snow plows have been and you can view road conditions via traffic cameras. For those of us who get around by bus, King County Metro will show you your planned Snow Route – just type in your bus route number in the search bar and click Enter on your keyboard. Learn more about what the Seattle Department of Transportation does to prepare for winter weather and who to contact for information by reading SDOT’s incredibly helpful Winter Weather 2013-2014 brochure. And if you’re concerned about other hazards and threats that might threaten your transportation – like flooding – sign up for an email or phone notification from the Regional Public Information & Notification emergency alert system.

On top of being safe while in transit, there are ways we can be safe in our homes. Thanks to Public Health of Seattle & King County for the tips below.

Be careful what you burn. Burning fuels like gasoline, propane, oil, kerosene, natural gas, coal or wood can let off carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide poisoning can be fatal. To be safe and prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Only use a generator outside and away from windows and vents
  • Don’t use a generator or portable propane heater indoors, in a garage or in a car port
  • Don’t cook or head indoors by using a charcoal or gas grill

Carbon monoxide poisoning can feel like a splitting headache, nausea and vomiting, and lethargy and fatigue. If you are experiencing these symptoms, get fresh air immediately and call for medical help from a neighbor’s home.

If you lose power, use different ways to stay warm. Try to stay with friends and family who still have power. Or, go to a city location set up for people without power. To find out where these locations are, visit www.kingcounty.gov/safety/prepare when there’s bad weather – they’ll have the location information listed. If you do stay at home, close all curtains and cover windows and doors with blankets. Everyone should stay together in one room with the door closed to warm each other and the room with body heat. Wear multiple layers of lightweight clothing rather than one layer of heavy clothing. And don’t forget to put on those hats and mittens!

And please do what you can to help others!

  • Check on elderly friends, family members, and neighbors to make sure they are alright.
  • Warn others about carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Invite friends and family over if you know they have lost power.

What other tips do you have on how to stay safe and warm this winter?

Breast Cancer Awareness Year-Round!

Another Breast Cancer Awareness Month has come and gone, now my questions as a health educator are these!

How many women over 40 actually went to have a mammogram or scheduled an appointment this month?

How many actually perform self-breast exams?

How many encouraged other women to do these things?

How many talked with their teen daughter about the importance of regular mammography screenings once they’re 40?

How many women encourage the men in their lives to perform self-chest and testicular exams?

With the American Cancer Society predicting 232,670 new cases of invasive breast cancer this year and 40,000 of those findings ending in death, the fact remains there are risk factors that cannot be changed. Many YWCAs and other organizations across the country spend their time and talents educating women about the importance of being screened. Those of us working in YWCA Women’s Health Outreach in Seattle also encourage people to be screened and know your personal risk factors.

The American Cancer Society says,

A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease, such as cancer.

Watch this video and see how one woman and her family are addressing their risk factors!

After you have learned what your personal risk factors are, take charge of your health, learn everything you can about the impact of the risk factor on your chance of getting breast cancer and become involve in finding a cure!

Volunteer with an organization working to eradicate the disease, participate in research, consider financial contributions, manage the risk factors you can control and communicate with others in your social networks on the topic of breast cancer – not just in October!  If you need to schedule a mammogram or connect with a speaker for your women’s group, book club, community event or church gathering – contact me at 206-461-4489. I can assist you throughout the year!

Enrolling in health insurance for 2015

Open Enrollment is on its way! Starting on Saturday, November 15th, we’ll be able to apply for, renew, or change our health insurance plans through the Washington state Health Benefit Exchange. This year, enrollment runs from November 15, 2014 – February 15, 2015. Here are some important dates to keep in mind:

  • November 15, 2014. This is your first day to apply for, keep, or change your coverage.
  • December 15, 2014. Enroll by the 15th if you want new coverage that begins on January 1, 2015. If your plan is changing or you want to change plans, enroll by December 15th to avoid a lapse in coverage.
  • December 31, 2014. The day all 2014 Marketplace [also known as Health Benefit Exchange] coverage ends, no matter when you enrolled. Coverage for 2015 plans can start as soon as January 1st.
  • February 15, 2015. The last day you can enroll in 2015 coverage before the end of Open Enrollment.

There will be double the number of plans available for 2015 coverage as there were for 2014 – so make sure to take some time to review the plans to find the best one for you and your family. If you signed up for a 2014 plan through the Exchange, you will most likely be eligible to automatically renew for 2015. However, it’s possible that your plan may be one of the few not available for 2015 – so best to double-check. Regardless of which plan you chose in 2014, you will be able to update your application and shop for new plan options.

If you want coverage from a new plan to start January 1, 2015, be sure to enroll by December 23, 2014, at 4:59pm. Also, keep an eye out for “Open Enrollment Renewal” notices from Washington HealthPlanFinder – this letter will give you more information about 2015 coverage, the renewal process, and any steps you might need to take.

Don’t forget that, if you’re eligible, you can enroll in Washington Apple Health (Medicaid) throughout the year. There is no enrollment period for this health coverage. If you are enrolled in Apple Health now, you will receive a notice 60 days before the month you enrolled or renewed your coverage last year.

If you would like any assistance at all during the enrollment period, please reach out to a certified Navigator in your area. You can do a search here. Navigators will assist you at no cost to you, and they are committed to helping you find, compare, and select a health plan that’s best for you and your family.


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