Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Women's health the priority

Every job important

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Stuffing envelopes isn't the most glamorous of volunteer jobs, but for Susan Hall, who helps out at the Canadian Women's Health Network (CWHN), it is a critical step in the fight to ensure women continue to get reliable health information.

Federal funding for the Winnipeg-based national non-profit group, which has provided women's health information to Canadians for over 20 years, was cut on March 31, 2012.

Volunteers such as Hall are helping the CWHN in its fundraising efforts to ensure Canada's national voice on women's health care issues does not go silent.

Hall, a retired public health nurse who has lived in many cities, provinces and countries over the years, says her passion for women's health issues grew out of an awareness of the inequalities she observed throughout her career.

"I think community nursing made me more aware of the disparities in health care, especially on an income level; inequalities that I wasn't aware of growing up in a middle-class family," says Hall.

From 1972 to 1975, Hall, along with her husband and two preschool-aged children, lived in Tanzania where she worked for CUSO International as a nurse in a clinic that served pregnant women and preschool children.

"Swahili was my children's first language," she says.

Since 1975, Hall has called Winnipeg her home, working in her early years at the University of Manitoba with community nursing students. When she retired in the late 1990s, she began volunteering for the Women's Health Clinic and in literacy and English as an additional language programs in the city. Through her volunteer work at the Women's Health Clinic, she learned about the CWHN's work, and in 2010 began to volunteer at the organization. She helped with many different administrative tasks such as the aforementioned stuffing of envelopes, filing and shredding and placing inserts in pamphlets/brochures.

"Volunteering for CWHN, for me, is so important because there are gaps in health-care information," says Hall. "Women are often overwhelmed by magazine articles that tell them they just need a pill, or a little bit of surgery, or just to starve themselves. What's more worrying is that many brochures and websites discussing health issues that appear to be independent are actually funded by for-profit companies. CWHN is a source of information on women's health that can be trusted, that isn't driven by commercial motives."

In April 2012, it was announced that Health Canada would eliminate the Women's Health Contribution Program, which funds four research centres in women's health across Canada as well as the CWHN.

One of the CWHN's most important services is its e-library, a bilingual collection of more than 15,000 women's health resources all accessible for free online. Resources are carefully screened by professionals, meaning the public has access to the most reliable women's health information at the tip of their fingers.

"These cuts are having a massive negative impact on women's health research organizations like CWHN," says Susan White, assistant executive director of CWHN. "Susan Hall has been playing a key role in our fundraising efforts."

To learn more about the CWHN and how to get involved/donate in its fundraising efforts, visit its website at cwhn.ca.

 

If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin-Bazak at carolynshimmin@gmail.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 7, 2013 B2

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