5 Important Articles to Celebrate Women During Women’s History Month

March is National Women’s History Month in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and to celebrate women and the innumerable and historical contributions they’re making in the sciences, the arts, and all other fields, we’ve selected five recent articles published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice that address important issues of concern to women.

The Office of Women’s Health recognizes March 10 as National Women and Girls’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to highlight the impact of HIV and AIDS on women and girls and to show support for those at risk of and living with HIV. Research indicates that women of color have lower retention in care and higher HIV/AIDS-related morbidity, compared to other populations with barriers to care that include lack of family support, inadequate HIV services, and stigma. And they may face unmet needs for services, including housing and employment.

In “Unmet Needs Among Out of Care and Recently Diagnosed Women of Color With HIV: Opportunities for Focused Interventions” author Serena Rajabiun and colleagues describe findings from a study on the unmet needs among cis and transgender women of color living with HIV across six urban health care settings funded through the Health Resources & Services Administration HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance Dissemination of Evidence Informed Interventions. Women of color are a vulnerable population living with HIV and there is a need to implement strategies that address both their medical and unmet medical needs to reach viral suppression. The National Plan to End the HIV Epidemic calls for increased strategies to improve access to care and treatment for people living with HIV through the Treat pillar. This important article provides suggestions for health care providers and policy makers to reach this vulnerable population.

While the field of public health dedicates much of its effort to promoting and building equity, the gender gap persists within its own ranks, despite the fact that women make up more than half of the workforce and hold more degrees in public health than men. In fact, despite being a majority, women in public health encounter an imbalance of power and experience disparate opportunities within the profession. With the current international recognition of critical issues of inequity across social sciences, author Brianne Bostian Yassine and colleagues aim to increase the understanding of gender inequity within the public health workforce. In “Gender Inequity in the Public Health Workforce,” they describe gender structure theory, or structural sexism, as it pertains to the workplace and then provide the first multidimensional review of key issues women in public health face, including unequal representation in leadership positions, analyses of wage discrimination, and assessments of disparities in publishing and scholarly citations. They close with a call to action to further investigate and address inequity in the public health workforce. 

The Zika virus outbreak in Puerto Rico in 2016-17 posed a serious risk to pregnant women as Zika infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects. In “Access to Contraceptive Services in Puerto Rico: An Analysis of Policy and Practice Change Strategies, 2015-2018” Lisa Romero et al report on the identified policy and practice change strategies to increase access to or provision of contraceptive services in Puerto Rico between 2015-18. Efforts to prevent pregnancy among women who chose to delay or avoid pregnancy during the Zika outbreak may have affected policy, practice change, and perceptions related to contraceptive coverage and family planning services over the short term. To our knowledge, this important paper is the first review of publicly available information on federal and territorial program policies, practices, and perceptions related to contraceptive coverage and family planning services in Puerto Rico. 

Maternal deaths and adverse pregnancy outcomes among Black and Native American/Alaska Native women is a national crisis. A particularly vulnerable period is after childbirth when gaps in social support may contribute to physical and mental health inequities. Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned to address these critical gaps in social support that contribute to inequities in maternal health. In “Racial/Ethnic Inequities in Pregnancy-Related Social Support: Design Workshops With Community-Based Organizations in Greater Boston,” Rose L. Molina and colleagues describe the value of using human-centered design thinking workshops in identifying solutions for gaps in social support for people navigating pregnancy and the first year after childbirth. In these workshops, they explored structural and interpersonal racism in community-based organizations in Greater Boston and lack of coordination among organizations providing social support services. 

HPV vaccine uptake remains suboptimal in the United States. Public education is considered an important aspect of increasing vaccination rates. In this comprehensive review, “Public Education Interventions and Uptake of Human Papillomavirus Vaccine: A Systematic Review,” Uzma Rani and co-authors included 30 studies that aimed to increase HPV vaccine coverage through public education. In addition to providing current information, they included minority population interventions that were omitted in previous reviews. They found that interventions that included parents of adolescents were more likely to improve HPV vaccine rates than studies that targeted only young adults. The interventions delivered by experts such as physicians and nurses were more effective than studies where no expert was involved. These results imply that future educational interventions should engage parents and include a trusted expert. Culturally or linguistically tailored interventions in minority populations used community input during their design phase. A majority of those studies showed a statistically significant increase in vaccine uptake. Because minority populations are disproportionately affected by HPV-related cancer, these findings are important as they highlight the importance of community engagement in HPV vaccine education. 

If women are to continue making HERstory and contributing to society in the countless ways they do, more must be done to address these critical population health issues. One way to support women during women’s history month — and to raise awareness — is to share important findings like these to help ensure that policy makers take notice and craft legislation that protects women.

Look for these articles in the Jan/Feb 2022 and Mar/Apr 2022 issue of the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. And share this post on social media.