Adopted at the 62nd General Assembly
San Francisco, CA
Our tradition teaches us that life and health are precious and that it is the obligation of individuals and society to protect both. As a movement, we have therefore consistently advocated universal health care and equality for women in all health care programs.
Women are short-changed in many aspects of health care, from research and prevention to treatment, access and education. Addressing these inequities is fundamental to women's rights.
Women need to be included in medical research. Major studies, such as the 1988 Harvard Medical School study examining aspirin and hearth disease, included no women in their sample. The Food and Drug Administration, in fact, prohibited drug companies from including women of childbearing age in early clinical trials of drugs between 1977 and 1993 (Washington Post, 7/22/93). As a result, much less is known about treatments for women than for men.
According to a report by the United Nations Development Programme, released on July 28, 1993, women are the fastest growing segment of the population with HIV/AIDS. However, far less is known about HIV/AIDS in women than men, because until the Center for Disease Control revised its classification system on January 1, 1993, the definition of HIV/AIDS did not include the opportunistic infections that most often affect women. As a result, women with HIV/AIDS were often not diagnosed properly. And because women with HIV/AIDS were often not identified, comparatively few have been studied.
Women's health care must be safer. Questions and concerns about products such as the Dalkon Shield and silicone breast implants have raised the need for products to be thoroughly researched, tested, and reported on honestly.
Better research and testing are the first steps toward better treatment for women, but there are other inequities in the health care women receive. The American Medical Association's Council of Ethical and Judicial Affairs reported in June 1991 that doctors are inclined to treat heart disease, lung cancer, and kidney problems in women less aggressively than the same problem in men. Moreover, as Dr. Bernadine Healy, Director of the National Institutes of Health, pointed out in a July 25, 1991 New England Journal of Medicine article, diseases and health concerns that affect women more than men, such as osteoporosis and depression, get less attention in treatment as well as in research. Similar criticisms have been made in relation to breast cancer.
Women, also need better, more affordable access to treatment services. Because women, particularly women who head single parent families, as well as minority women in general, are over represented among those in poverty, access remains a major concern for women. For this reason, we have long advocated ensuring that women are treated fairly and equally under any health care reform package, including coverage of all reproductive medical needs. Prevention, an absolutely critical component in health care, is likewise made far more difficult when patients cannot even afford an examination or diagnostic tests.
Better education about women's particular health concerns is essential for women's physical and psychological health. We need education: to combat violence against women, the leading cause of injuries to American women; to help prevent sexually transmitted disease, which, when untreated, can cause infertility, and, in some cases, death; to confront the national epidemic of eating disorders that has been shamefully ignored.
Therefore, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:
- Support passage of legislation such as the omnibus Women's Health Equity Act which corrects deficiencies in women's health care, including research, prevention, treatment, and delivery and funding of services, and call for funding of programs which provide greater opportunities for gender specific research in such areas as heart disease in women, arthritis, fertility and infertility, menopause, osteoporosis, breast cancer, eating disorders, chemical dependency and women with HIV/AIDS.
- Advocate programs which inform the medical establishment of the specific needs of women, including testing and evaluation of pharmaceutical products and medical procedures on women.