What we’re reading and watching: Recommended resources

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From Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix, Information Centre Coordinator


Surviving on Hope is Not Enough: Women’s Health, Poverty, Justice and Income Support in Manitoba
Rhonda Wiebe and Paula Keirstead (Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence, 2004)
Available online at www.cewh-cesf.ca/PDF/pwhce/survivingOnHope.pdf
Large print: www.cewh-cesf.ca/PDF/pwhce/survivingOnHopeLP.pdf

If you are poor you are likely to experience more illness and have a shorter life expectancy than someone with a higher income. Women, especially women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and single mothers are more likely than men to live in poverty. Do publicly funded income support programs reduce poverty and improve health? How do women who rely on these programs experience them? The authors try to answer these questions by examining women’s experiences with these programs as well as their access to the justice system. The authors’ recommendations for change are based on the experiences of the women they interviewed and will be of particular interest to community workers and activists.

Women Need Safe, Stable, Affordable Housing: A Study of Social, Private and Co-op Housing in Winnipeg
Molly McCracken and Gail Watson (Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence, 2004)
Available online at www.cewh-cesf.ca/PDF/pwhce/housing.pdf

One in five Canadian women live in poverty. These women are at greater risk of living in unsafe and unhealthy environments and need support to achieve stable and affordable housing. This study looks at the effects of different housing policies on the economic security, health and well being of women in Winnipeg. Governments, policy-makers and community leaders can use the findings to learn which housing models and practices better meet women’s needs.

Voices: Women, Poverty and Homelessness in Canada
Rusty Neal (National Anti-Poverty Organization, 2004)
Available online at: www.napo-onap.ca/en/resources/Voices_English_04232004.pdf

The number of homeless women in Canada has increased dramatically since the 1990s. Political realities such as changes in transfer payments to the provinces and the failure to deliver a national housing strategy have played a part. In this report the author traces the personal stories of homeless women in Halifax, Ottawa and Vancouver. Funded in part by the National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, it is the result of a multi-year project analyzing the causes and conditions of homelessness. The report includes a list of recommendations to both the federal and provincial/territorial governments.

Women, Peace and Security
Sheri Gibbings (Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, 2004) Since September 11, 2001, national security has been defined in terms of the threat posed by terrorism. But who and what are genuine threats to our security? The Canadian government has responded to these perceived threats by spending more on defence, diverting money away from important social programs, making life more difficult for the poor. The authors of this fact sheet make the case that women are at particular risk. They are more likely to experience poverty, and the chauvinistic and violent culture that is often allowed to flourish in the military, leading to increased attacks on women as well as on visible minorities or racialized groups.

First Stage Trauma Treatment: A Guide for Mental Health Professionals Working with Women
Lori Haskell (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2003)

Many women seeking treatment for depression, chronic anxiety, substance-use problems, difficult or abusive relationships and self-inflicted harm are actually experiencing complex post-traumatic stress responses associated with chronic abuse and neglect in childhood. While mental health professionals may be aware of their clients’ early histories, they may underestimate the role of the trauma as the origin of their symptoms and fail to provide these women with the treatment they need. This guidebook has been developed to assist mental health workers and caregivers in understanding more about the impact of abuse and neglect in women’s lives. The author outlines the basic components of first stage trauma treatment and offers specific tools and concrete strategies to use in beginning this difficult work.

Health Literacy: A Prescription to End Confusion
(Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, 2004)

Health literacy defines the degree to which individuals obtain, process and understand the information needed to make appropriate health decisions. It is essential to successful health care. As patients we convey our symptoms and medical history to health professionals who then convey back results, recommendations, information and instructions. But what if you don’t understand what’s being said to you? This report looks at the problems associated with low levels of health literacy, and recommends actions to promote a health-literate society. While written for an American audience, many, if not all, of the recommendations can be adapted for a Canadian perspective.

My Body, My Responsibility: A Health Education Video for Deaf Women
(University of Rochester, 2003) 62-minutes

There is a serious need for educational materials on reproductive health and this video helps fill that gap. It covers topics including puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and labour, birth control methods, and sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, and how to be tested for HIV. The film features deaf actresses in most roles and dialogue in American Sign Language throughout. It also has a spoken English voice-over and open captions (subtitles), so the film is accessible to hearing and hard-of-hearing people as well as sign language users.

Is It Safe for My Baby? Risks and Recommendations for the Use of Medication, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs During Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
(Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 2003)

This booklet is for women who are planning a pregnancy, who are pregnant or breastfeeding. It gives information about the relative risks and safety to the fetus of prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs, along with alcohol, tobacco and other substances when the mother is pregnant, and to the baby, when breastfeeding. While the information in the booklet is a good starting point to address the questions of safety, it is also a great way for a woman to prepare herself for more in-depth talks with her doctor, midwife or pharmacist.

Damaged Angels: A Mother Discovers the Terrible Cost of Alcohol in Pregnancy
Bonnie Buxton (Alfred A. Knopf Canada, 2004)

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) describes a range of physical and developmental problems affecting some children born to women who drink alcohol during pregnancy. While the damage is permanent and irreversible, early diagnosis and intervention can prevent common secondary disabilities such as mental health and behavioural problems. The author writes from her personal perspective as she learns to understand her daughter Colette’s disability. She describes how a diagnosis of FASD can change everyone’s attitude towards the person affected and that a person who is seen as mean, defiant, lazy and uncooperative becomes someone with a neurological disability who needs a special approach to care, education and treatment.

Diabetes in Women: Adolescence, Pregnancy, and Menopause, Third Edition
E. Albert Reece, Donald R. Coustan and Steven G. Gabbe (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004)

Diabetes affects approximately five to ten percent of Canadians and nearly half of those with the disease are women. This book provides an educational and therapeutic resource for health care workers who care for women who have diabetes.

Pharmaceuticals in our water: A new threat to public health?

A new fact sheet released by Women and Health Protection warns about a new health and environmental concern. Tests on water in North America have found trace amounts of antibiotics, painkillers, anti-inflammatories, hormones, tranquillizers, chemotherapy drugs and drugs used to treat epilepsy and blood cholesterol. A family of chemicals called phthalates, found in many cosmetics, perfumes and hair products, has also been detected. Scientists and policy makers have begun to worry about their possible harm to human health and the environment.

We are exposed to this toxic mix of PPCPs (pharmaceuticals and personal care products) on a daily basis. Adding to the concern is the fact that we are using more drugs than ever before, setting the stage for increased contamination over time.

Women have a particularly strong connection to PPCPs. Exposure to minute quantities of certain chemicals while a woman is pregnant can harm the developing fetus. Women are most often responsible for the purchasing and disposal of drugs and home-use products. There are many drugs that are prescribed more often to women than to men and women experience adverse reactions to drugs more often than men do.

The fact sheet describes what individuals, governments and industry can do to reverse the threat these products pose to our health and to the environment. Women and Health Protection believes the federal government should take a “green pharmacy” approach to the problem that would include an emphasis on prevention through reduced use of drugs and other PPCPs.

All of us can play a role by reducing drug and cosmetic use, disposing of these products safely and pressuring governments and drug companies for change.

For more information on PPCPs, see Full Circle: Prescription Drugs, the Environment and Our Health, written by Sharon Batt, on the website of Women and Health Protection, at www.whp-apsf.ca

Reflecting on the midwifery way

In July 2004, the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women's Health and the Prairie Women's Health Centre of Excellence hosted “The Midwifery Way: A National Forum Reflecting on the State of Midwifery Regulation in Canada” at Dalhousie University.

Access to the full conference programme, which includes the abstracts of the presentations, is available on the website of the Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health, www.acewh.dal.ca

The conference proceedings were prepared by the Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence and will soon be available on their website, www.pwhce.ca