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Building Effective Programs: Coping with the Patchwork Quilt of Women's Health Issues

Coordinating Women's Health Programs


Jennifer Lopez, Chief, Office of Women's Health Initiatives, Ohio Department of Health.

Sharon Green, M.H.A., Deputy Director for Women's Health, Illinois Department of Public Health.

The policies of a wide range of State and local programs, such as public health, Medicaid, and maternal and child health, all have an impact on women's health. A fundamental challenge in designing effective women's health strategies is to ensure that policies and activities are coordinated across State and local organizations to avoid unintended negative effects.


Jennifer Lopez provided an overview of the Ohio Office of Women's Health Initiatives' (OWHI) priorities, partners, and products. OWHI determines its priorities through the input of both internal and external representatives (e.g., from women's and children's agencies, hospitals, family planning agencies, local health departments). OWHI:

  • Provides reliable, timely, and culturally appropriate health information to Ohio women.
  • Assesses Ohio women's health status, distributes findings, and promotes policy implications.
  • Monitors the impact of health care reforms on women's health.
  • Promotes women's health programs and research at Ohio's universities and medical centers.
  • Ensures that the women's health perspective is represented in health policy analyses of the Ohio Department of Health.
  • Convenes leadership committees and forums to focus on women's health in Ohio.

The OWHI undertakes a wide array of projects to carry out these initiatives. The projects include:

  • Implementing the Osteoporosis Action Initiative, which brought together a diverse team of professionals from around the State to create and implement State-wide projects to increase osteoporosis awareness and prevention.
  • Developing the State Women's Health Directory, the first comprehensive resource on State-level women's health structure in the U.S.
  • Publishing the Ohio Women's Health Data Book, which provides statistics to State policymakers, legislators, State agency program staff, and others guiding State policy decisions related to women's health.
  • Publishing Healthy People 2010: Health Objectives for Improving the Health of Ohio Women, a report compiled as a means for monitoring the health status of women on both the national and State levels.
  • Publishing the Women's Health Grant Opportunities Resource Guide, which provides organizations with a listing of potential funding sources for women's health-related research and programs.
  • Developing the Health Clinics Resource Guide, a listing by region of providers of health care services to women with limited income and insurance coverage and their family members.
  • Distributing a quarterly, consumer-focused women's health bulletin, on such topics as women and managed care, the aging process and stress management.
  • Distributing fact sheets on women's health topics, such as access to health care, adolescent health, breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, clinical preventive services, low birth weight, mental health, osteoporosis, smoking, and substance abuse.

To accomplish its goals, the Office partners with academic medical centers, local women's health agencies, trade associations, and pharmaceutical and private companies.


Sharon Green presented the three-pronged approach to women's health adopted in the State of Illinois:

  • Within the Department of Health, the Office of Women's Health has the mission of improving the health of women by initiating, facilitating, and coordinating women's health awareness, education, and programming throughout the State. In addition, the Office promotes equitable public policy on health issues that affect women.
  • Women's Health Illinois, an interagency cabinet chaired by the lieutenant governor, encourages cross-agency collaboration and receives buy-in from agency decisionmakers. The group's priorities are a survey of State agencies of women's health services (to identify opportunities for collaboration and gaps in services) and a National Report Card analysis (to identify areas in which Illinois did not score well and to make recommendations for improvement).
  • The Governor's Commission on the Status of Women, appointed by the Governor of Illinois, has eight working groups that focus on a wide range of women's health priorities.

The Office of Women's Health in Illinois has undertaken cross-agency collaborations with the Department on Aging and Department of Corrections. Ms. Green presented some of the advantages and disadvantages of such internal (i.e., State agencies) and external (i.e., community groups) collaboration. She noted that collaboration enables identifying targeted populations, sharing and distributing resources, and identifying duplicated services. However, barriers to collaboration exist. Barriers to internal collaboration include navigation of multiple layers of bureaucracy and funding issues. Barriers to external collaboration include different reimbursement patterns and local health department control issues. Ms. Green advised States to overcome such barriers by developing trust with new partners by starting with small projects.

Ms. Green offered suggestions to States interested in establishing partnerships and developing programs similar to those of the Office of Women's Health:

  • Get funding for women's health initiatives into the Governor's budget.
  • Add women's health to other agency conferences.
  • Involve community organizations in programming activities.
  • Build on Federal materials such as those presented at this workshop.
  • Provide data comparing each State to the nation.


Health Insurance and Use of Health Care Services among Ohio Women: Results from the 1998 Ohio Family Health Survey. Office of Women's Health Initiatives. Ohio Department of Public Health. August 2000.

Healthy People 2010: Health Objectives for Improving the Health of Ohio Women. Office of Women's Health Initiatives. Ohio Department of Public Health. November 2000.

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