Latest from OWL

Wednesday July 29, 2015

New Initiatives Aim to Help Family Caregivers


The nation would need to spend $470 billion to replace the work done by the more than 40 million unpaid family caregivers in the U.S. That’s one of the findings from a recent study by the AARP Public Policy Institute.

Caregivers themselves pay a high price; the study noted that adult children, mostly daughters, reduce their own paid work to care for parents, at a lifetime cost that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.  According to research by the MetLife Foundation, female caregivers lose on average $324,000 in lost wages and Social Security benefits.

The good news is that lawmakers are taking action. The recently introduced bipartisan Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act would require the development of a national strategy to support family caregivers, including creation of an advisory body to bring together relevant federal agencies and others from the private and public sectors to advise and make recommendations.

And Rep.Nita Lowey plans to reintroduce her Social Security Caregiver Credit Act, which would create a credit that would be added to earnings to determine future benefits. This is particularly important for women who are more likely to take time out of the workforce to serve as unpaid caregivers.

WL supports both pieces of legislation and encourages everyone to ask their congressional delegation to do the same.

A number of caregiving-related initiatives were also announced at the White House Conference on Aging. For example, the employer coalition ReACT (Respect a Caregiver’s Time), Care.com and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are creating the tools employers need to support employees who are caregivers.  Bank of America announced its Bank of America Merrill Lynch Longevity Training Program for human resources and benefit plan professionals. 

Posted by Pat Lewis at 01:24 PM

Tuesday July 14, 2015

Have you had ‘the talk’ yet?

The talk with your health care professionals. The one
about weight—and the devastating consequences
extra pounds can have on women’s health. 

OWL’s latest article on Huffington Post examines the impacts of obesity on women.

Study after study confirms it: America is facing a serious adult obesity epidemic. The latest report from JAMA Internal Medicine found that 75 percent of men and 67 percent of women are now overweight or obese—a sharp increase from 20 years ago when 63 percent of men and 55 percent of women fell into those categories. (A person is overweight if they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9. Those with a BMI of 30 or higher are considered obese.)

Women were more likely to be obese than overweight, with 37 percent of women in the former category and 30 percent in the latter. Altogether, two out of every three women in the U.S. were above a normal weight. This—no pun intended—is a very big deal. Carrying too much weight raises the risk of serious, life-threatening diseases including Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Being obese affects certain recovery outcomes, as well: Obese women diagnosed with breast cancer are 35 percent more likely than normal-weight women to die of their cancer. Obesity is also a significant predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly among women, and CVD is the leading killer of women in the U.S.

Read the full article here.

Posted by Deborah Akel at 04:22 PM

Monday June 29, 2015

Medicare Should Cover Hearing Aids

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This year, as Medicare turns 50, it’s a good time to look back on its half-century of success in providing access to health care for hundreds of millions of older Americans. It’s also a good time to look forward at ways we can strengthen this essential program for generations to come.

One critical way is to allow Medicare to cover hearing aids. Surprisingly, America’s original safety net for seniors doesn’t cover hearing aids or routine hearing exams.

If you have a loved one who suffers from hearing loss, you know how important a hearing aid can be to quality of life. And chances are, you do: hearing loss is one of the most common chronic conditions in the U.S., affecting nearly 20 million Americans over the age of 45. Left untreated, it can have serious social and emotional consequences: a National Council on Aging study found that those with untreated hearing loss were more likely to report depression and less likely to participate in social activities than those who wear hearing aids.

Yet, because of the lack of Medicare coverage, many seniors who need them go without. The average price of a pair of hearing aids is around $4,500—a heavy burden or entirely out of reach for many older Americans.

Congress is currently considering legislation that would remove the barriers in the Social Security Act that prevent Medicare from covering hearing aids. H.R. 1653—the Medicare Hearing Aid Coverage Act of 2015, introduced by Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan, is an important step toward bringing Medicare into the 21st century and improving access to hearing aids and exams.

As we celebrate Medicare’s 50th birthday - as well as our own 35th anniversary—we reflect on the role Medicare has played over five decades in the well-being of our nation’s seniors, and we encourage Congress to pursue actions such as H.R. 1653 that will strengthen and modernize this essential program.

Read this blog on Huffington Post.

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar at 05:23 PM

Thursday June 11, 2015

Why Talk About Death

By Donna L. Wagner, Ph.D.
Interim Dean, College of Health and Social Services, New Mexico State University

Talking about death and end of life issues is probably the last thing most people are interested in doing. Many believe that it’s sad, morbid and unpleasant. Perhaps that’s why we have developed so many euphemisms for death: “He passed,” “She is no longer with us,” “he ate the banana,” “kicked the bucket” or “crossed over.” No matter what your preferred term may be, it is likely seen as more palatable and acceptable than using the “d” word.

At the recent health symposium on the topic of death convened by the College of Health and Social Services at New Mexico State University, Gail Rubin, who organized the death café during our lunch, reminded the audience of this important fact: “Talking about sex won’t make you pregnant and talking about death won’t make you dead.”

The conference was organized to give the community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, both residents and health professionals the opportunity to spend the day talking about the very personal topic of death; more than 400 people showed up.

“A Beautiful Death: What will you choose?” opened with a presentation by Peggy Battin, a bioethicist from the University of Utah who has been studying end of life issues her entire professional career. She challenged the audience with important ethical dilemmas that are timely today as the circumstances around the end of life have changed and are changing due to health technology and medical advancements that can keep us alive. These changes raise the bar for us all as we watch our parents and grandparents face a complicated set of decisions that no one had to make in the past.

Around the nation, end of life issues are being discussed. In part this is a function of an aging population and increasingly large health expenditures for care at the end of life.

Palliative care is not available in all communities and many health professionals are not clear of the value of palliative or what is the scope of the care and what should not be included. Absent a more rationale and informed approach to the end of life on the part of patients and health professionals, the end of life will continue to be an expensive proposition for our health care system. And, more importantly, unnecessary pain and suffering for the dying and their loved ones.

In a 2013 issue of the American Journal of Public Health “End-of-Life Care Issues: A Personal, Economic, Public Policy and Public Health Crisis” describes the lack of advance care plans in place for most Americans. The authors point out the irony that while the majority of Americans want their wishes to be respected at the end of their lives, only about one-third say they have completed paperwork like the Five Wishes or other advance care planning documents.

Who would you want making decisions about your care when you are dying and unable to speak for yourself? If you haven’t been talking about your wishes, either with your family or preferably through a written document that can be shared with your physician and at the hospital where many die today, the decision-maker will likely be someone who doesn’t know you or if they do, doesn’t know what you want.

Every state in the nation has an advanced care form online for you to use to memorialize your wishes. It’s important to get all the information you need to make an informed decision that is right for you. This is best managed by talking to those you love and others who know something about end of life situations. If you still have trouble talking about death, just fill out the form online and hand a copy to a trusted family member. It is the most important gift you can give them. Read more about the symposium here.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 09:38 AM

Friday May 22, 2015

OWL Briefing Featured in Forbes

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OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing and venture capital campaign was featured in a Forbes article:

Divorced, depressed and more than a million dollars in debt in 1997 due to a troubled real estate development, Carol Gardner’s world was falling apart. She was 52. “My cupboard was bare with no money coming in, I was living on four credit cards,” Gardner says. “My divorce attorney’s advice was: ‘Sweetheart, get a therapist or a dog.’”

Gardner opted for an English bulldog, named her Zelda and hoped she’d double as a therapist and help relaunch her life. A friend, knowing Gardner’s background was advertising, suggested entering Zelda in the local pet store’s annual Christmas greeting card contest. So Gardner borrowed a Santa hat from a neighbor, filled the tub with bubble bath, lowered Zelda in the water, snapped the photo and sent it in with this caption: For Christmas, I got a dog for my husband…good trade, huh?

Weeks later, Gardner won the contest, got a year’s supply of dog food and had a life-changing brainstorm in the process: a greeting card company centered around Zelda sporting different outfits.

Though Gardner was warned that 97% of greeting card startups fail, she was determined. “I had no choice. It was about survival.” Nearly 18 years and three Zeldas later, Zelda Wisdom today generates more than $50 million annually from cards, calendars, posters, books and gifts featuring the iconic bulldog.

This week, Gardner was named one of 10 women in the first Hall of Notables — remarkable encore entrepreneurs honored by OWL (Outstanding Women Leaders), the advocacy organization for women over 40. There isn’t a shrinking violet in the Hall, which includes Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African-American female combat pilot who’s now a leadership coach; Patricia Lizarraga, Managing Partner of Hypatia Capital Group; journalist and author Gail Sheehy and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 10:22 AM

Monday May 11, 2015

Report inspires women seeking encore careers

Reporter Nancie Fadeley wrote on OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing for The Register-Guard:

Every May, OWL, formerly known as The Older Women’s League, releases a Mother’s Day Report about concerns of women as they age. This year’s report is “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers after 40.” It differs a bit from past reports, but the theme — the need for economic security — is not new.

“Our Women Mean Business” offers inspiration and hope to women who are discouraged by the pay equity gap, the glass ceiling, and gender and age discrimination.

OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report cites research that differs from the conventional wisdom that entrepreneurship is just for young people. During the past 10 years, the highest rate of entrepreneurship in this country has been among those aged 55 to 64; in 2013, one-fifth of all new businesses were started by 50- to 59-year-old entrepreneurs, and 15 percent created by those age 50 and over.

Women decide to open their own businesses for good reasons. Even though there are laws against gender discrimination, gender gaps still exist.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 02:20 PM

Monday May 11, 2015

Venture Capitalists: Fund More Women Entrepreneurs

OWL’s Mother’s Day briefing was featured in an article from Next Avenue, a group of public television people and journalists who, for the most part, are experiencing both challenges and opportunities of ‘Adult Part 2’, and that recognizes that what we could all use an abundance of reliable information that can help us figure out what’s next. 

Just 7 percent of all VC funding goes to businesses led by women, according to OWL’s new report timed to Mother’s Day, Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.

“We are launching a campaign to increase that number to 20 percent by 2020,” says Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, vice president of OWL’s Board of Directors and a partner in a Miami law firm. “When you realize $48 billion was invested by venture capitalists in 2014, 20 percent of that would be a sizeable improvement.”

OWL plans a three-pronged effort to get more investment money in the hands of female entrepreneurs.

First, the 35-year-old organization will ask its Hall of Notables women “to speak to the VC community so we can put a real face to the statistics,” Rodriguez-Taseff says. She adds: “Nothing speaks success to VCs like a successful entrepreneur.”

Second, OWL will reach out to institutional investors — nonprofits, universities and funds that invest in socially-responsible projects — to ensure they factor gender into their investment strategy.

And there’ll be a grassroots effort around the country. “When owls flock together, it’s called a parliament, so OWL will also be convening parliaments around the country to make sure venture capitalists more evenly distribute their funds,” Rodriguez-Taseff says.

OWL reports that women make up only 4.2 percent of the 542 partner-level positions at the 92 largest VC firms. “People give money to people who look like them. It’s not an intentional slight, but what a Harvard study called ‘unconscious bias,’” says Rodriguez-Taseff.

Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 02:04 PM

Wednesday May 06, 2015

OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report Celebrates Women Encore Entrepreneurs

In case you were wondering where the next economic boom is coming from, OWL believes it lies with the increasing number of women entrepreneurs.

That and more is included in OWL’s 2015 Mother’s Day Report, ‘Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40’ also highlights obstacles that could prevent that potential from being reached, including the meager amount of venture capital going to women. Women received a dismal 7% in VC funds in the first half of 2013 and there are no indications it has gotten any better.

Yet there are hard numbers that demonstrate VC firms would do well to fund more women. For example, women-led technology firms are more capital-efficient, and when backed by venture capital bring in 12% more revenue than their male counterparts. Overall, venture capital firms that invest in women do better than those that don’t.

The report was released May 6 at the National Press Club; the briefing included information on OWL’s upcoming campaign to increase the percentage of VC funds going to women from 7% to 20% by 2020. OWL is the only national nonprofit focusing on opening the VC funding tap to more women.

OWL is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year. “We were founded because women faced many more challenges achieving economic security than men,” says OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar. “What’s exciting about the trends we’re seeing now is the emphasis on getting women the tools they need to open new businesses. And it’s not necessarily about fairness. It’s about more economic opportunity for everyone.”

She pointed to a report from Babson College that found six million jobs would be created over five years if women entrepreneurs started with the same amount of capital as men.

The report debunks the conventional wisdom that most successful entrepreneurs are in their 20s. People 55 and older are almost twice as likely to found successful companies as those 20-34.

Women are also ideally suited to solve marketplace problems, since they make close to 85% of all consumer decisions.

“Our nation needs the talents of 100% of our population,” said OWL Board Chair Margaret Huyck. “And if we don’t start making sure everyone has equal access to capital, we will have a tougher time competing globally. Because a number of countries are waking up to the untapped talents of women – and they’re being very aggressive about changing the equation.”

The report includes OWL’s first-ever Hall of Notables, ten remarkable women who embody the spirit of encore entrepreneurism. Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, who now runs a successful consulting business; Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc.; Svetlana Kim, entrepreneur and best-selling author; Kay Koplovitz, Founder of USA Network; Patricia Lizarraga, managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group; Nell Merlino, Chair, Personal Data Independence Trust; Jeanne Sullivan, a founding principal of StarVest; award-winning author Gail Sheehy; Terrie Williams, an inspirational speaker and writer; and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.

A panel discussion featuring many of the honorees will follow opening remarks by Latifa Lyles, Director of the Women’s Bureau at the Department of Labor. Lisa Stark, Al Jazeera America correspondent, formerly with ABC News, will moderate.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 12:31 PM

Monday May 04, 2015

When Lying Can Be Good for Your Heart

Did you know that lying about your heart symptoms could save your life? It’s called the “Yentl syndrome” and it was coined in 1991 by then-NIH Director Dr. Bernadine Healy. It describes how women had to misrepresent their symptoms to get the same life-saving heart treatment as men. 

Turns out that the syndrome still exists. Men’s heart health is improving, but women in the U.S. are dying from heart disease at an alarming rate. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women, killing more women each year than all of the cancers combined.

And the reasons are gender-based: misinformation, misdiagnosis, and mistreatment. A 2014 survey shows that an alarming 45 percent of women ages 25-60 don’t know heart disease is their number one killer. Some doctors are unversed with the different symptoms women experience, such as the nausea, backache, jaw pain, extreme fatigue or shortness of breath that are women’s signs of heart attack, rather than the crushing chest pain that men first experience. Treatment options are based on medical research conducted on men; only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies are women.

I had the pleasure this week to attend a dinner hosted by the heart of Washington, Esther Coopersmith, to honor Barbra Streisand and celebrate the Women’s Heart Alliance, which Streisand co-founded.  She spoke passionately about the Alliance’s awareness campaign, “Fight the Lady Killer.” The campaign builds on the research of organizations like the Society for Women’s Health Research which has consistently promoted research on the sex differences in disease and disorders. The “Fight the Lady Killer” campaign includes raising awareness among women and their doctors, more money for research, and investments in treatment geared toward women.

Heart disease is not just a health issue; it’s an economic one as well. The impact of heart disease poses a significant threat to women’s economic security. According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2010, the total costs of cardiovascular diseases in the United States were estimated to be $444 billion. Treatment of these diseases accounts for about $1 of every $6 spent on health care in this country. With women still too often under-employed or underpaid, serious illness has a disproportionate impact on them, easily undermining their and their families’ finances. The national economy pays a double price: it overloads our health care system and takes valuable resources out of the workforce.

Next week, OWL will be releasing a report highlighting the economic contributions women entrepreneurs are making to our economy. It also examines the gender gap they face getting access to the $30 billion in venture capital invested each year. In 2013, women received a mere 7 percent of those funds.

I was struck by the similarities between the investment gender gap and the gender based barriers in diagnosing and treating heart disease. For one example, a number of male investors pride themselves in “knowing” what a successful entrepreneur looks like—a man. It turns out many doctors are convinced they “know” what a heart attack looks like—a guy clutching his chest.

The good news in the venture capital world is that pressure is mounting from inside and outside the industry to change. One of the factors was the front-page stories covering the trial over Ellen Pao’s accusation of gender discrimination against the VC firm where she worked. She lost, but many believe the conversations surrounding the case moved the needle.

“Fight the Lady Killer” is poised to have a similar impact on women’s heart disease. Barbra Streisand brings together that rare combination of dedication, resources and political intelligence—she makes it clear that, despite her personal politics, this must be a nonpartisan issue.

When Barbra Streisand uses her remarkable voice to talk about the absurdity of a singular approach to treating a disease that expresses vastly different symptoms in women than it does in men, to urge lawmakers to increase the National Institutes of Health budget dedicated to women’s heart health, to remind us that heart disease kills 1-in-3 women a year and that we can and must act, people listen—and act.

As we prepare to celebrate “Mothering Sunday,” remembering those women who have nurtured us along our path, one way to honor them is to make sure they avoid—or survive—heart disease. #GetHeartChecked Read the full article.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 01:21 PM

Monday April 20, 2015

Briefing May 6 on Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40

Did you know that women entrepreneurs—armed with the right resources—are poised to create millions of new jobs?

That’s why OWL is launching a campaign to raise the level of venture capital investment in women from 7% to 20% by 2020.

Learn more about this and our first-ever Hall of Notables on May 6 at the National Press Club when OWL releases its 2015 Mother’s Day Report, “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40.”

Join us for this thought-provoking program, where you’ll hear from:

Latifa Lyles, Director of the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau and many of our Hall of Notable Honorees, women who embody the spirit of encore entrepreneurism—the ability to reinvent oneself, to continually seek out new opportunities, and to give back to communities:  Vernice “FlyGirl” Armour, the first African American female combat pilot, who now runs a successful consulting business; Carol Gardner, founder of Zelda Wisdom, Inc.; Svetlana Kim, entrepreneur and best-selling author; Kay Koplovitz,founder of USA Network; Patricia Lizarraga, managing partner of Hypatia Capital Group; Nell Merlino, creator of Count Me In for Women’s Economic Independence; Jeanne Sullivan, a founding principal of StarVest, who was recently cited by Forbes magazine as one of the “Women Changing the World”; Gail Sheehy, award-winning author; Terrie Williams, inspirational speaker; and Teresa Younger, CEO of Ms. Foundation.*

Our moderator is Lisa Stark, Al Jazeera America correspondent, formerly with ABC News.

Seating is limited, so please RSVP to info@owl-national for OWL’s May 6 briefing, 2:30-4:00 p.m., at the National Press Club in D.C. updated 4.28.15

Posted by Pat Lewis at 12:56 PM

Friday April 17, 2015

Syncing medications to increase adherence

More than 10,000 pharmacies across the nation are embracing a new service that helps patients better manage their medications by coordinating, or “synchronizing,” prescription refills. The goal is to improve medication adherence outcomes.

Virginia Commonwealth University research found that the average patient skips nearly five refills of chronic medications over the course of 12 months; the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) reports that one-third of patients who take regular medications miss doses because they run out before refilling their prescription.

The new service is called Appointment Based Model (ABM). In ABM, also known as “med sync,” pharmacists synchronize chronic prescription refills so that they all come due on the same day each month.  The program eliminates the need to call in multiple prescription refills, reduces the number of trips to the pharmacy and provides an opportunity for patients to meet one-on-one with their pharmacist on a monthly basis to discuss their medications.

“There are many factors that keep patients from adhering strictly to their medication regimen,” says Tim Weippert, Executive Vice President of Thrifty White Pharmacy.  “Pharmacists are actively working with their patients to simplify the prescription refill process and thus improve medication adherence that is so critical to maintaining good health, resulting in healthier outcomes for their patients.”

More information is available at the APhA Foundation, including a zip code locator to find nearby pharmacies offering the service.

Posted by Pat Lewis at 02:37 PM

Monday March 23, 2015

Good Health:  A Personal and Social Responsibility


Guest post by Bonnie S. Muheim, a health care consultant and freelance writer based in Washington, DC. 

One hundred years ago, people rarely saw doctors when they were ill.  Available medicines often did not do much to alleviate infection and disease, and treatments to reduce pain and suffering were few.  Life spans reflected these limitations.

Fast forward to today.  We have a broad network of medical specialists and subspecialists who deal with the entire spectrum of medical conditions, illnesses and diseases.  Scientific research has given us multiple categories of medicines and, within each category, numerous medications that can moderate, arrest and often cure illness and disease.  Happily, our life spans reflect the evolution of knowledge and the development of innovative and effective medicines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are witnessing an unprecedented growth of older adults and, by 2050, there will be double the number of people age 65 or older in the United States that we had in 2010.  The growth can be attributed to baby boomers reaching senior status and the fact that Americans are simply living longer.  Where once our ancestors got sick and perished, nowadays our serious illnesses often can be managed with proper prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  Many acute or deadly illnesses, such as AIDS and some cancers, have become chronic illnesses.  Other potentially fatal conditions, such as hypertension and diabetes, are now manageable with medication and close medical supervision.

The good news, too, is that while older Americans are living longer, they also are leading more independent, productive, and healthier lives.  Many are putting off their retirement and a new focus on healthy living is encouraging seniors to remain active and engaged in their families, jobs and community.

Which leads us to the role those of us with mid- to senior status can take to keep it all going.  Frankly, the older we get, the less we can afford to let things go.  I am not just referring to our personal health, wrinkles and inevitable weight redistribution.  We also have a social responsibility to keep ourselves in good shape.  Doing so benefits the aggregate as well as ourselves, and staying healthy minimizes the burden on our health care system, which we all know too well faces difficult challenges.  The ounce of prevention we take now can be a pound of cure later – and also a saving of uncounted dollars to our individual and health system’s pocketbooks.

So, what can we do to make the most of our lives and maintain a healthy lifestyle?  Absolutely stay active.  For sure mind your diet and nutrition.  Don’t even think putting off screenings and vaccines that potentially could save your life.  Empower yourself with knowledge by asking the right questions and taking advantage of the resources available to you.  To all of that I would add:  Seek proper treatment for what ails you and follow the prescribed course of action, particularly when it comes to medications.  Learn as much as you can about your condition and meds, take your meds as prescribed and work with your physician to find the best treatment for YOU, not the one based on cost or convenience.

One hundred years ago our parents and grandparents didn’t have nearly the choices we have today.  But with those choices comes responsibility.  Make good informed decisions in managing your health.  You’ll be glad you did – and so will your own children and grandchildren.

Here are a couple of resources that might be helpful in healthy aging:

The Value of Medicines for Healthy Aging

The Value of Drug Adherence

Healthy Aging/Longevity, National Institute on Aging

Healthy Eating for Older Adults, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Posted by Pat Lewis at 10:42 AM

Friday February 27, 2015

February Newsletter Released

This month’s newsletter includes a Huffington Post article by OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar entitled, ‘Another Social Security Red Herring?’.

Check out the full observer here.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 12:04 PM

Monday February 09, 2015

Can we be adults about this?

There’s a high price to pay for political posturing: our public health. As the debate around the anti-vaccination movement rages on, it is important to bear in mind that the vast majority of Americans, across party lines, believe that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks. According to the nation’s leading researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, Americans are making the right choice when they stay up to date with their vaccinations.

Unfortunately, despite the effectiveness of potentially life-saving preventive services, such as screenings and vaccinations, in 2013 only 25% of adults ages 50 to 64 and fewer than 50% of adults age 65 years or older were up to date. Politicians are making a mostly indisputable choice into a partisan hot potato about the reach of government and personal freedoms. By creating a debate around vaccinations politicians are generating more skepticism from adults, particularly adult women, who are making important decisions about not only their child’s vaccinations, but their own. According to one study, the largest contributing factor to uncertainty about vaccinations was a “conspiratorial mindset”. The political is detracting from the practical and undermining a proven prevention strategy: adult vaccinations.

For example, did you know that an average of 30,000 people die each year from vaccine-preventable illnesses? And that 95 percent of those who die are adults? Each year, an average of 226,000 people is hospitalized due to influenza and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die of influenza and its complications; the majority are adults.

Survey after survey indicate that adults are not getting the vaccinations they need. The 2010 Adult Immunization report found millions of American adults go without routine and recommended vaccinations each year, which leads to an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 preventable deaths, thousands of preventable illnesses, and $10 billion in avoidable health care costs annually.

As the recent Disneyland measles outbreak has demonstrated, adults aren’t the only ones who need the protection. While many of the illnesses adults contract aren’t deadly for them, they can be fatal, and easy to pass on, to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. It is critical that those in close proximity to infants be up to date on their vaccinations, especially since babies under a year old are too young to be immunized, making them extremely vulnerable. Take whooping cough: this respiratory infection causes a persistent cough in adults, yet it can be fatal for infants. No parent or grandparent ever wants to be responsible for infecting a child.

But if no one wants to put a child at risk, and the majority of Americans don’t believe in a government vaccination conspiracy theory, then why are adult vaccination rates still so low?

There are plenty of barriers, starting with primary care physicians. A 2012 survey found that just 29% of general internists and 32% of family physicians assessed their patients’ vaccination status at every visit. Only 8% of general internists and 36% of family physicians said they used immunization information systems.

Almost all physicians said they assessed the need for and stocked seasonal influenza, pneumococcal, tetanus and diphtheria, and tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis vaccines. Only 31% of family physicians and 20% of general internists reported stocking all 11 adult vaccines that were recommended for routine use in 2012.

A study released last year from the University of Colorado School of Medicine confirmed a failure of health care providers to assess the vaccination needs of their patients and an insufficient stock of vaccines. It also identified inadequate insurance reimbursement, record-keeping challenges, and high costs to smaller practices and general internists who see more Medicare Part D patients. “As the population ages this could easily grow into a more serious public health issue,” said Dr. Laura Hurley, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the CU School of Medicine.

Then there’s the social contract. Unlike children’s vaccinations, which are rigorously policed by schools, summer camps, youth sports leagues and more, adults are on their own. And while there is plenty of material available, it requires taking the time to find out what we need to know: What vaccination do I need? What about the other members of my household? Will my insurance cover them? If not, are there other resources available? Are there side effects that might make it tough to do my job? The burden of finding the answers to all these questions falls primarily on women, who make close to 85 percent of all household health-related decisions.

We do not yet know how to address all of the medical barriers or gaps in education surrounding vaccinations. What we do know is that there’s empirical data demonstrating that adult vaccinations are a proven prevention strategy. What we do know is that the current inflammatory political climate is not constructive. What we do know is that we are all in this together. If we decide to, we know that, working together, we can prevent the preventable.

Read the original article on Huffington Post

Posted by Bobbie Brinegar at 11:35 AM

Friday January 23, 2015

OWL ED Published in Huffington Post Article

OWL Executive Director Bobbie Brinegar was published in a Huffington Post article entitled, “Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40”. The article lays out the success of female entrepreneurs, highlights the difficulties women face in accessing venture capital funding, and introduces OWL’s initiative to help women gain the access they need to revolutionize the American economy. Full content of the article is below.

At age 52, recently divorced, depressed and deeply in debt, Carol Gardner received advice from her attorney to “get a therapist or get a dog.” Choosing the latter, she leveraged her background as an advertising creative director and started a greeting card company in her living room with her new English bulldog, Zelda. Carol’s entrepreneurial spirit, along with Zelda’s good looks, helped her create what is now an international, multimillion-dollar licensing business, Zelda Wisdom, Inc., that includes calendars, books, greeting cards and more.

Gardner’s story represents a growing trend: “accelerating female entrepreneurship could have the same positive effect on the U.S. economy that the large-scale entry of women into the labor force had during the 20th century.” In particular, encore entrepreneurs may just be the key to American economic growth.

Did you know that:

• Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned firms grew at 1½ times the national average, and that revenue and employment growth among women-owned firms tops that of all other firms—except the largest, publicly traded corporations?
•People over 55 are almost twice as likely to found successful companies as those between ages 20-34?
•Having high-ranking women on the team increases the likelihood of success?
•Venture capitalists who back women do better than those who don’t?

With statistics like these, you would think venture capitalists would be tripping over themselves to invest in women-led enterprises.

Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult for women to score venture capital (VC) funding than their proven success would make it seem. What people are also starting to recognize- the obstacles are often structural and gender-biased. This is a shift; until recently, we would have been much more likely to read articles focused on why it’s women’s fault, for their failure to be assertive, or to propose good ideas. Consider these sobering statistics:

•Women’s enterprises received only seven percent of venture capital funds in 2013.
•Women account for only 4.2 percent of the 542 partner-level positions at the 92 largest VC firms.
•Research has confirmed that this is not because of the lack of women-led enterprises but instead so-called ‘pattern recognition,’ a term still embraced by many in the VC community.
•A recent Harvard Business School study found that regular people and experienced angel investors were more likely to be swayed by a man’s business pitch, especially an attractive man’s, compared with the exact same pitch delivered by a woman.

The good news is that people are beginning to acknowledge that this is a very real problem, and that it’s costing all of us a lot of money. The National Venture Capital Association has established a diversity task force, and there are a number of writers and entrepreneurs who speak out about the irrational biases driving poor business decisions. It is noteworthy that much of the coverage is taking place on the pages of business publications like Forbes, Fortune and Entrepreneur Magazine. They have seen the reports, like one from the Economist, concluding that, if women entrepreneurs were financed at the same rate as their male counterparts, they could create 6 million jobs in 5 years. Reports like the recent one from the Kauffman Foundation argue that “the future of American growth is in the hands of women.”

OWL- The Voice of Women 40+ is tackling this critical issue through a new initiative, Our Women Mean Business: Encore Careers After 40. One aspect of the initiative is a campaign to increase women’s access to venture capital. The goal is to raise the level of venture capital investment in women from seven percent to 20 percent by 2020.

Barbara Corcoran, who sits on a panel of successful venture capitalists hearing pitches from aspiring entrepreneurs on ABC’s Shark Tank, was asked by Senator Cardin during her testimony for a hearing on women in entrepreneurship whether capital or technical assistance was more important. The cunning entrepreneur answered, “Capital. Entrepreneurs are just hard-headed enough to figure the rest out on their own.”

It is high time we break down the barriers inhibiting female entrepreneurs from accessing capital, so that women are equipped to succeed in their business ventures, and revolutionize the U.S. economy in the process.

Posted by Brittany Reid at 02:19 PM
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