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The Health Capsule is PPFA’s weekly roundup of news and recently-published articles that address timely and critical sexual and reproductive health care and education topics.

DR. SARA C. FLOWERS TALKS SEX EDUCATION ON THE BALANCING ACT: October is Let’s Talk Month, an observance that focuses on normalizing and encouraging open, honest, and ongoing family communication about sex, bodies, and relationships.

This year during Let’s Talk Month, Dr. Sara C. Flowers, Vice President of Education & Training at PPFA, will appear on daytime talk show, The Balancing Act, airing on Lifetime Network. On the show, Dr. Flowers highlighted the importance of parents having early and open communication with their children and laying a foundation for the future:

“Let's Talk Month was founded by Advocates for Youth and it was really founded with the idea that those of us who are trusted caring adults – aunties, grannies, cousins, teachers – really are where youth want to hear their ideas values and get clear information about growing up, puberty, and all of these things that are covered in sex education. So this month is really to help open the lines of communication between caring adults and the young people in their lives.

I have a fifth grader so I understand what it is to have a tween come in flop on your couch and say they’d like to be alone to your question of “How was your day?” But the truth is they're listening and so we really want to be the ones to be available to them to answer their questions. Or if they have a question that we don't know, how to answer… ‘I don't know but let's look it up together.’”

 Dr. Flowers calls on parents and caregivers to take action in their communities by getting informed about the kind of sex education their children are — or aren’t — receiving in school. She also encourages parents to reach out to their local Planned Parenthood affiliate to find sex education programs and resources in their communities.

Dr. Flowers’ The Balancing Act segment aired on Lifetime on Monday, October 10, 2022 and re-airs on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 7:30AM EST.

 Watch the segment on Lifetime or here.

BLACK WOMEN STILL DYING FROM BREAST CANCER AT HIGHER RATES: This week, CNN reported on new statistics from the American Cancer Society, which show that although the death rate from breast cancer has dropped 43% in the last 30 years, Black women are still dying at higher rates. In fact, Black women are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women, even though Black women are less likely to get breast cancer.

 Breast cancer outcomes used to be similar between racial groups, but starting in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a gap in breast cancer mortality rates appeared. Breast cancer deaths amongst both white and Black women declined, but the improvements were much more significant for white women. This gap remains today.

Oprah Magazine reported that Black women develop more aggressive tumors at higher rates, and VeryWellHealth highlighted that Black women are more likely to have chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity that could contribute to a greater risk of death from breast cancer. But researchers do not believe these factors are the only explanations for the higher death rate. Instead, experts attribute the racial health disparities to a combination of biology, poverty, and race.

Read more about racial disparities in breast cancer outcomes here and here.

 

ABORTION BANS CREATE BARRIERS TO CANCER TREATMENT: This week, The 19th explored the dire effects of abortion bans & restrictions on people living with cancer. For many, getting treatment for cancer naturally comes along with physical, emotional, and financial challenges, amongst others. But because of abortion restrictions, patients have encountered new challenges.

Chemotherapy is a common type of treatment for many cancers, and it’s known that chemotherapy can cause fetal harm. For this reason, people are generally discouraged from receiving chemotherapy during the first trimester of pregnancy, and abortion may be recommended or necessary in order to a patient to get the life-saving treatment they need.

 According to Diana N. Contreras MD, chief health care officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

 “Depending on the specific cancer diagnosis and recommended course of treatment, it may be strongly advised, or in some cases medically necessary to end a pregnancy. Or a pregnancy may end on its own through miscarriage. It’s possible the course of treatment would create a hostile environment for the pregnancy and result in loss or that the strain on the body is simply too severe and it would not be optimal to continue with a pregnancy.  

“This puts patients in a difficult position to either risk not undergoing treatment that could save their life in order to try and continue their pregnancy – something we cannot guarantee as the cancer itself can pose a risk to the pregnancy – or decide to end the pregnancy to undergo cancer treatments that could save their life. In either scenario, the chance of miscarrying is high.  

“The overturning of Roe v. Wade means that decisions about whether and in what cases abortion is allowed are left up to the states, which will only contribute to fear and confusion around potential civil and criminal penalties against pregnancy outcomes — including but not limited to abortion. While Planned Parenthood is strongly opposed to the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes, the unfortunate reality is that there will be people with cancer whose time-sensitive oncology care, or reproductive care, is delayed or denied due to the overturning of Roe.”

Read more here.

 

HEALING THROUGH TRAUMA-INFORMED CARE: Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week, which was followed by World Mental Health Day on October 10. In recognition of the importance of mental health every day, we’re lifting up The Body Pros conversation with Amanda Reames Pittelli, ANRP, M.S.N.director of clinical services at Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington (PPMW) and participant in Planned Parenthood’s trauma-informed care steering committee.

Amanda joined The Future of HIV Care,” host Juan Michael Porter II to discuss 10 best practices for providing trauma-informed care, particularly after a sexual assault. Amanda spoke about the importance of acknowledging trauma and fostering self-agency. She also explained how a trauma-informed lens can help in all interactions to help empower yourself, colleagues, friends, and family:

 “I hope that by the end of our conversation I can make the argument that trauma-informed care is not just a medical care-delivery practice, but also a practice that can be beneficial to utilize in interactions with all people in both our professional and personal lives. All people should be treated with respectful, sensitive care and empowered to make their own decisions.”

Amanda and Juan Michael also talked about how trauma is what a person says it is, and sexual assault is not about sex, but rather power and control. This understanding should guide all providers in their interactions with patients who have disclosed a sexual assault.

Listen to the full episode here.