Thursday, December 3, 2009

Writing for Salon, Barbara Ehnrenreich does a nice job of asking whether the pink ribbon of breast cancer has replaced actual feminism and the fight for comprehensive health care.

I'm not cavalier about breast cancer; nearly all the women on one side of my family have had it. But I am icked out from a near-romanticization of breast cancer, and the "pinkwashing" corporations engage in. (I have been strongly influenced by the Think Before You Pink campaign.) And from a public health standpoint, the almost exclusive focus on breast cancer by many campaigns is a little strange: as the the American Heart Association notes: "Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer." I think it's important to express to women that they need to take as least as much care with preventing heart disease as they do with breast self-exams, yearly mammograms, etc.

As Ehrenreich points out, while Hollywood stars flip out over new mammography recommendations, no one similarly high-profile is talking about Stupak, pushing for all women's preventive services to be covered in health care reform. No one is asking what kind of preventive care and public health funds in general are going to be aimed at the kind of basic public health interventions that affect not only breast cancer but almost every other disease you can think of: Exercise, healthy eating habits, social support, limiting environmental pollutants, etc. Women's health is not just breast cancer. (And that yogurt lid? You can just donate the cost of the stamp you'd have used to mail it; the breast cancer research organizations will get more money that way.)

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