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Women Must Lead Health Care Reform: National Health Care Conference April 17-18

Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, Other Leading Women Health Advocates Mobilize at Simmons College

BOSTON (April 10, 2008) — Some of the nation's leading women's health advocates, including former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders, will convene at a national conference April 17 and 18 at Simmons College in Boston, to help mobilize a grassroots movement for creating a progressive U.S. health care system that meets the needs of women and their families.

More than 300 national, state and local women's health care advocates will attend the conference, "Hear Us Now! Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need," to engage in an array of panel discussions and training sessions on topics ranging from health care insurance obstacles facing women and girls, to the vision of health care for all from a policy perspective.

This event is open to the public, but R.S.V.P. is required.  To register, visit

The national conference is organized by the Avery Institute for Social Change, National Women's Health Network, and MergerWatch Project of Community Catalyst, to launch a campaign of actively involved women's health advocates in health care reform. The "Raising Women's Voices for the Health Care We Need" strategy focuses on identifying policy issues related to women's health and healthcare reform; engaging a national network of key women's health stakeholders; developing a women's vision of quality health care for all; and engaging women to become actively involved in the national health care reform debate.

Joycelyn Elders, M.D., former U.S. surgeon general for health and human services, will deliver the keynote address April 17 at 9:45 a.m., "The Crisis in Our Health Care System: Why Don't We Have Quality, Affordable Health Care for All?" in the Linda K. Pareksy Conference Center, 300 The Fenway, Simmons College.

Other featured speakers include Judy Ann Bigby, M.D., Massachusetts secretary of health and human services; Claudia Morrissey, M.D., MPH, president of the American Medical Women's Association; Byllye Avery, founder and president of the Avery Institute for Social Change and founder of the Black Women's Health Imperative; Miriam Yeung, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum; Judy Norsigian, director of the Boston-based Our Bodies, Ourselves; Jessica Rojas-Gonzalez, policy director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health; Judy Waxman, vice president of the National Women's Law Center; and Maureen Corry, executive director of Childbirth Connection.

Conference topic titles include:

  • "Uninsured or Under-Insured: Who is Left Out of the System Now?"
  • "Making Our Health Care Culturally Competent"
  • "Why Isn't Health Care Considered a Human Right?"
  • "A Call to Action"

Women's health care advocates say that women's input in the debate on health is crucial, considering their frequent role as the decision-maker for their family's health care. Additionally, with 47 million Americans without health insurance, certain groups of women, such as Latinas, are often disproportionately affected. Those women who do not have insurance, or whose insurance coverage is inadequate or too costly to use, often postpone care or do not get prescriptions filled for themselves or their children. The Institute for Medicine reports that more than 18,000 women die from lack of medical care each year.  Women face special concerns such as the loss of dependent health insurance when they become divorced or widowed, and the refusal by insurers in some states to insure women who are pregnant.

To determine specific health care needs and problems of women and their families, organizers have been conducting small group meetings with targeted women's health audiences, particularly underserved groups that are often excluded from health care reform discussions.

The event is hosted by the Simmons Institute for Leadership and Change, which sponsors programs, activities, and resources that help initiate social change for women, raise women's issues to the state and national political level, and reach out to audiences diverse in age, class, sexual orientation, culture and educational background.

Due to construction, parking on Simmons's campus is limited.  Please visit the parking website for parking alternatives.