National Women's Health Network

National Women's Health Network

The National Women's Health Network (NWHN) is a non-profit women's health advocacy organization located in Washington, D.C.. It was founded in 1975 by Barbara Seaman, Alice Wolfson, Belita Cowan, Mary Howell, M.D., and Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. The stated mission of the organization is to give women a greater voice within the healthcare system. NWHN is financially supported by 8,000 members, and does not accept contributions from the tobacco and medical industries. The NWHN researches and lobbies federal agencies on such issues as AIDS, reproductive rights, breast cancer, older women’s health, and new contraceptive technologies. The Women's Health Voice, the NWHN's health information program, provides independent research on a variety of women's health topics. Access to their services, as well as various fact sheets, position papers, outside resources, and their newsletters can be found on their official site



The NWHN was founded in 1975 by Barbara Seaman, Alice Wolfson, Belita Cowan, Mary Howell, M.D., and Phyllis Chesler, Ph.D. as a lobby group for women's health advocacy. It quickly expanded to become a clearinghouse for women's health information as well, and continues to provide women with objective health information from a feminist viewpoint. [1]

In its first year, the NWHN organized the first ever protest against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). In 1975, organizers opposed to the FDA approval and lack of oversight of synthetic estrogens such as DES and high-dose estrogens in combined oral contraceptive pills carried signs reading "Feed Estrogen to the Rats at the FDA" and "Women's Health, Not Drug Company Wealth." After the protests and the Nelson Pill Hearings, Patient Packaging Inserts (PPIs) listing side effects were instated for oral contraceptives—the first PPIs in U.S. history. [2]

The present

  • The NWHN petitioned the FDA in August, 2006 to cease sales of estrogen testosterone combination treatments.[1]
  • The NWHN Board of Directors includes Susan F. Wood, who served as Assistant Commissioner for Women’s Health and Director of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Women's Health (OWH) from November 2000 through August 2005, when she resigned on principle due to the continued delay of approval of the emergency contraceptive, Plan B. [3]


  • There is worth in women’s personal accounts of their experiences, and health policy should echo women’s diverse experiences.
  • The normal changes that women experience over their lifetimes should not be over treated.
  • Every woman should have access to quality healthcare.
  • Information given to women to direct their health decisions should be motivated by evidence rather than profit.
  • Government has the responsibility to provide for the health and welfare of all people.
  • Scientific analysis that takes into account systems of oppression and power is valuable to all.

Raising Women's Voices

The National Women’s Health Network helped found Raising Women’s Voices, a national initiative that advocates affordable healthcare for everyone. Raising Women’s Voices wants to ensure the national discourse on healthcare reform takes the needs of women into account. Other founding members include Mergerwatch and the Avery Institute for Social Change. Raising Women’s Voices includes a list of 26 principles including:

  • High quality health care for all.
  • Ensure provision of the full range of reproductive and women’s health services. Such services should include, but are not limited to, maternity care, pre- and post-natal care, contraception, abortion, treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections, and fertility treatment;
  • Include comprehensive dental care for both children and adults.
  • Actively address and work to eliminate racial, ethnic, gender and class disparities in health care access, as well as disparities due to immigration status, disabilities and sexual or gender identity. [4]


Fact sheets and position papers

The NWHN publishes independently researched fact sheets and position papers on a variety of women’s health topics including breast cancer, endometriosis, cervical cancer, fibroids, menopause and hormonal therapy, mammograms, abortion, and hysterectomy. Every publication is from an objective, feminist perspective without endorsing any specific treatment plan or method.[5]

The Women's Health Voice

The National Women's Health Network publishes a bimonthly newsletter, the Women’s Health Voice. The Voice has been in circulation since 1976, but was known as the Network News up until 2001. The Voice includes articles by NWHN board members, staff members, and contributors from diverse organizations and institutions. Recent contributors have included the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, Georgetown University, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, PharmedOut, and SisterLove, Inc.

Content consists of independently researched articles on current events, health policy, awareness campaigns, informational topics, and medical updates. Articles in the Voice have spoken out against many government actions including the FDA’s re-approval of silicone gel breast implants.[6] The newsletter also includes a Young Feminist section, written by current interns or other young professionals in the health activist field. [7]


  1. ^ "Women's Health Network Petitions FDA to Halt Sales of Estrogen, Testosterone Combination Treatments". Medical News Today. August 28, 2006. Retrieved 2006-09-05. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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