Olympia J Snowe

Strengthening our Commitment to Women's Health - Feb.16, 2007

Olympia J Snowe
February 16, 2007
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Since I began my career in the United States Congress twenty eight years ago, I have seen firsthand the struggles of women trying to achieve equal representation in medical studies and research. Unfortunately, that battle still continues today and only furthers my commitment to providing the necessary resources and research tools to keep American women healthy. By offering adequate health care and appropriate medical treatment that is geared toward the specific needs of a woman’s body, we are setting the necessary standards to increase the well-being of all Americans.

It is of the utmost importance that women’s health issues are understood in the halls of Congress and last week I was proud to work with a long-time ally on women’s health issues, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). More than twenty years ago, Senator Mikulski and I joined efforts in the U.S. House of Representatives to create an Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which was established in 1990. Last week, we collaborated again to introduce legislation that would make women’s health offices or officers at federal health agencies more permanent.

It is simply unacceptable that only two federal agencies – NIH and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – currently have women’s health offices or officers that have been authorized into law. Today more than ever, our top doctors, scientists, and researchers know that men and women have different bodies and different needs for staying healthy. It is in our best interest to keep moving forward and investing in medical research that promotes men’s and women’s health issues on an equal platform. Our country must devote the necessary attention and resources to finding treatments and possible cures for undeniable threats - like heart disease, stroke, and breast cancer –that take the lives of millions of women each year.

To better understand one of the nation’s most prevalent diseases, I joined a bipartisan effort, led by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to support legislation that would advance breast cancer studies. The Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act would provide scientists with the best possible tools to explore the relationship between breast cancer and the environment. With more than three million women in the U.S. currently living with breast cancer and one million more who have yet to be diagnosed, the urgency of this matter is clear.

It is imperative that the necessary research is dedicated to finding a cure to this far too prolific killer. By exploring whether environmental factors like diet, pesticides, and electromagnetic fields contribute to America’s high breast cancer rate, we have the ability to change the lives of millions of people.

Another piece of legislation introduced last week, the HEART for Women Act, ensures that heart disease and stroke are more widely recognized and more effectively treated in women. Originally crafted by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), two long-time proponents of women’s health care, I was honored to be a part of legislation that takes a multi-pronged approach to improving the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease and stroke. The HEART for Women Act also authorizes the Medicare program to conduct an education awareness campaign for older women about the risks of heart disease and stroke.

Far too often, women’s health is overshadowed and overlooked in terms of medical funding and research and it is no longer acceptable for our mothers, daughters, and sisters to pay the price of this double standard. I take pride in the dedication of my Senate colleagues to right these wrongs in the halls of Congress and I will continue to give my staunch support to legislation that equalizes the health benefits of all Americans.

Speech taken from website, http://snowe.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.WeeklyUpdates&ContentRecord_id=674892a4-802a-23ad-4fe4-82e95d80bd20&Region_id=&Issue_id=, August 27, 2007>