You're the champion! Of your family's health care

women are the main health care decision makers for their family

Women's Health Monthly: May 2017

This Mother's Day we want to recognize all the women who are the health care decision makers in their families. Many are mothers, making decisions for themselves, their children, and maybe even their partners. And many women who aren't mothers help make health decisions for their partners, family members, and other loved ones.

In the United States, women make an incredible 80 percent of health care decisions, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

They also use health care more than men. This is partially because of reproductive needs, like contraception and pregnancy care, but they may also be more likely to see their doctor at other times too.

"Women are often more vigilant, not only about their own health but about the health of those they care about," says Hetal Choxi, M.D., primary care provider at the OHSU Center for Women's Health.

Women's Primary Care

The women's primary care team at the OHSU Center for Women's Health knows that the conversations they have with women are highly likely to impact the health of entire families too.

There are several preventive health topics that women discuss with their providers and then share with their families most often:

  • Nutrition and healthy eating
  • Exercise and healthy lifestyle
  • Smoking cessation
  • Vaccines, especially the flu shot
  • Health screenings

"If I talk to a pregnant patient about smoking cessation during a visit, she is often very motivated to not only quit, but get her partner to quit smoking too," says Dr. Choxi. "I also talk to women about the flu shot who then get their whole families vaccinated."

Boost Your Confidence

The most important thing you can do to feel confident in making health care decisions is to establish a relationship with a primary care provider. A good primary care provider wants you to be your own health advocate, and will partner with you to make decisions and find solutions that are best for you and your family.

"Develop a long-term relationship with a provider you trust, even if you also see multiple specialists," recommends Dr. Choxi. "That provider can see the big picture and help you manage the rest of your care."

Another great reason to have a relationship with a primary care provider is that the field has been moving towards more preventive care.

"It used to be that patients primarily came in when a problem arose. But our goal is to prevent and reduce health issues in the future," says Dr. Choxi. "Primary care providers are now working to be more proactive about preventive care, like mammograms or other screenings."

The goal is to build up each patient as an advocate for their health, and also be an active part of their team of health champions. For women, who often take the lead for their families' health too, this is much-needed support.

"Look for a provider who works with you to arrive at health care decisions together," says Dr. Choxi. The best fit is someone you like and trust.

Thank you

To all the women out there who make health care decisions, thank you. No matter how you help care for those close to you, your vigilance and confidence make a big difference in the health of your family and your community.

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