Ohio State researchers are committed to helping improve women’s health on many fronts. From tackling heart health, to exploring ways to help women beat cervical cancer and many points in between, researchers are engaged in a multi-faceted approach with one goal – improve the lives of women.
During Women’s History Month, here is a look at some of the ways Ohio State researchers are working to improve the health and wellness of women at home and around the world.
Laxmi Mehta, director of the women’s cardiovascular health program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, has long understood that heart attacks are different for women than for men. But this information has been nebulous, contained in bits and pieces in various different studies.
Mehta is helping to change that. She led the effort to create an American Heart Association statement that connects the dots between different studies and presents a unified look at the ways heart attacks are different for women.
The statement identifies four areas — risks, symptoms, types and recovery — in which women may deal with heart attacks differently than men. She recently wrote in U.S. News & World Report that she hopes the statement “will make more women aware of the unique risks and symptoms they face when it comes to heart attacks, and make doctors more prepared to treat them.”
Moms’ health and happiness
Ohio State researcher Kristi Williams is taking a closer look at how the timing of when a woman has her first child may influence her health later in life. One discovery: Women who had their first child later in life did not have better health at midlife than those who had their first baby as a teenager.
“We’ve had all this focus on the bad effects of teen childbearing and never really asked what happens if these teens wait until adulthood,” said Williams, lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology.
Williams unearthed another finding that runs counter to conventional wisdom — that unmarried mothers would be healthier if they wed. This was particularly notable for African American women. Her study found that single African American moms who later got married reported worse health at midlife, than those who had a baby but did not get married.
“Most studies indicate that marriage promotion efforts have been unsuccessful in increasing marriage rates,” she said. “Our findings suggest this may be a good thing, at least for black women’s health.”
Fighting cancer in Ethiopia
The Ohio State/Ethiopia One Health Partnership is improving the lives of citizens throughout Ethiopia. One focus area of this initiative is on tackling cervical cancer among Ethiopian women. According to the World Health Organization, 6,000 Ethiopian women die of cervical cancer each year.
The root cause of this challenge is lack of healthcare treatment. Ethiopia has only one radiotherapy center and four oncologists. Women must wait more than six months for treatment.
As part of the partnership, Ohio State is trying to help bridge this gap by providing cervical cancer screening and treatment. Leading this aspect of the partnership is College of Nursing researcher Jennifer Kue, who has brought her expertise in community health promotion and achieving health equity in underserved populations to the project.