Public Release: 

New Center Of Excellence In Women's Health Will Focus On Health Of Minority Women

Harvard Medical School

BOSTON--Oct. 21, 1998 Harvard Medical School has received a contract from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish a National Center of Excellence in Women's Health. The Center will provide innovative, community-based health care for women-with a special emphasis on the health needs of minority women-as well as outreach, research, and education programs to further improve care.

Clinical services will be provided at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical center, Massachusetts General Hospital, and their affiliated community health centers.

"The remarkable features of this contract is that it will help the three hospitals and the Medical School accomplish what none alone could do," said Eleanor Shore, dean for faculty affairs at Harvard Medical School and deputy director of the National Center. "The new level of collaboration will increase community outreach to all women, including minorities, both in clinical care and health education. At the same time, it will catalyze an expansion of medical school curriculum in women's health and support the advancement of women to academic leadership positions."

The Harvard Medical School National Center of Excellence in Women's Health will be led by Andrea Dunaif, chief of the Division of Women's Health at Brigham and Women's Hospital, as director, and Benjamin Sachs, chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as co-director. Dunaif and Sachs also co-direct the Harvard Center for Women's Health, which was established in 1998 to bring together Harvard Medical School faculty at the affiliated hospitals interested in developing excellent clinical, academic, and research programs in women's health.

By the end of the month, women will be able to call a toll-free number (800-713-1567) to obtain information or set up appointments for a wide variety of clinical services at a single site, what is known as "one-stop shopping." Appointment specialists will inform callers of participating institutions and ask where they prefer to receive care. For those who do not have a preference, referrals will alternate between institutions.

Minority women have unique health concerns. Black, hispanic, and American Indian/Alaska Native women have shorter life expectancies and are less likely to receive adequate prenatal care than white women. Black women have the highest rates of death from cerebrovascular disease. While breast cancer death rates have declined among white women, they have increased for black women. American Indian, black, and hispanic women have the highest rates of cervical cancer in the country.

The Harvard Medical School Center of Excellence in Women's Health will encourage more research into women's health, particularly issues related to minority women; develop programs and culturally sensitive materials in women's health to educate the public; and strengthen the role of minority women in participating institutions.

"The Center provides an extraordinary opportunity to integrate programs across the medical school and its affiliated institutions and to use that breadth of skills and patients to look at quality of care and develop 'best practices' for women's health," said center director Dunaif, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Additional goals of the Center include supporting the development of the best practice models for health care for all women; broadening the use of outcome measures and patient surveys to evaluate clinical services and patient satisfaction; expanding the use of community-based primary and preventive health care services; developing mechanisms to ensure the career advancement of women in participating institutions; and developing better curricula in women's health.

"This initiative allows the very best public health programs, such as the WELL program, a mid-life program for women who are uninsured that emphasizes screening and preventive health care, to be shared by other Harvard hospitals." said Sachs, professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. "Patients will have a much broader spectrum of options to choose from should they need specialized women's health care."

The Harvard Medical School National Center of Excellence in Women's Health is one of six third-generation model centers awarded contracts this year. The other five are located at Tulane/Xavier Universities in New Orleans, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, University of Washington, Seattle, and University of Wisconsin at Madison. This is the first year the contract emphasizes minority health concerns.

In October 1996, the Office of Women's Health established the first six vanguard model Centers: Allegheny University of Health Sciences in Philadelphia; Magee-Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA; Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio; the University of California at San Francisco; the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and Yale University.

The second generation of Centers of Excellence, established in October 1997, include Boston University Medical School, Indiana University Medical Center, the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Maryland at Baltimore, the University of Michigan Medical Center, and Wake Forest University/Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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