What Else are Soap Boxes For?

National Health Blog Post Month Day 5 – Monday, Nov. 5, Health Activist Soapbox

At a conference last month a fellow physical therapist I’d just met told me to stay on my soapbox because what I have to say is important. That’s just it. I’m ON my health activist soapbox 24/7! Anyone who knows me—heck, anyone who has ever just met me briefly—has heard at least a passionately delivered line or two from my soapbox speech! Anytime I’m writing, like here or here I’m relaying facts and real life stories about why women’s pelvic health means so much to so many; to their quality of life, to their sex lives, to their spouses and partners. I was on my soapbox on a larger scale in September at the Maya Angelou International Women’s Health Summit where I spoke about the role of rehabilitation in obstetric fistula care–alongside the amazing Dr. Lewis Wall, no less! Earlier in the year there I was again at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in front of an auditorium of OBs and OB residents stumping for increased attention to pelvic floor health and protection during pregnancy and postpartum. And at Dan Pallotta’s Change Course last weekend I somehow got a room full of humanitarians to nod their Amens when I relayed one recent mom’s struggle with pelvic organ prolapse. That moment concluded with Dan Pallotta himself, the man who raised millions of dollars through rides and walks for breast cancer and AIDS, affirming that staying on my soapbox would indeed lead to change.

But when? Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly progress. But I believe we need radical change to assure that every woman prioritizes her pelvic health and that women in developing nations get the full complement of care needed for safe pregnancy, childbirth and recovery (including rehabilitation services for fistula!).  It is exciting to get frequent warm, enthusiastic feedback from those who have listened to me on my soapbox, yet eternally frustrating to lack many of the resources, primarily the financial resources, to pursue this change full steam. It’s disheartening that (except for a very few individuals) people, companies and organizations just haven’t stepped forward to help fund projects that mean so much to so many both here in the US and in DR Congo. For example, we need to raise $50,000 to get our team to Goma this February to carry out rehabilitation training and next-phase planning for our Fistula and Obstetric Rehabilitation Initiative (FORI). If you’ve ever nodded in solidarity while listening to me on my soapbox, or if you did while reading this post, would you take a minute to change women’s lives and give whatever you can?

There are countless deserving causes out there including those in dire need after Hurricane Sandy. I acknowledge these sincerely. But my soapbox is my soapbox, and as we get closer to our FORI fundraising deadline please also consider the young women for whom we speak. Young women who lack even emergency obstetric care, women who labor for several days, frequently lose their baby in the process and are left with a devastating birth injury causing constant leakage of urine and/or feces. They’re cast out due to the pervasive and stubborn stigma of obstetric fistula and unless we help that’s where they’ll stay.  Lastly, don’t be fooled into thinking only about “those poor women in Africa”…their pelvic health conditions are grave, but the stigma of urinary incontinence, bowel incontinence, and other sensitive female pelvic issues is pervasive and stubborn in our culture, as well.  We are just a different part of the same continuum.  And unless we help ourselves, too, that’s where we’ll stay.

Thanks to We Go Health for putting down the challenge of 30 in 30 for National Health Blog Post month!

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