There is one issue that directly impacts every American and U.S.-based employers: healthcare. Healthcare offerings are one of the primary factors that applicants consider when evaluating a prospective job. In the interest of their own care, their spouse’s care, and their dependents’ care, employees look to find employers that offer the best available policies to fit their health needs. This Cervical Health Awareness Month, we are looking at how employer healthcare policies can be part of the solution to promote employee health and foster workplace cultures of safety, equity, and respect.
When employers provide healthcare policies, they should look at it not only as a key tool to support and retain employees, but also to help achieve racial and health equity. The healthcare and medical fields have a long way to go regarding cervical health awareness and health equity, especially given the history of harm and exploitation of Black women.
Gynecological health, its study, its treatment, and its public health ramifications have been a matter of racial disparity and racism for quite some time. The father of gynecology, James Marion Sims, created this field of research by experimenting on female African American slaves without anesthesia. Many years later, Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman diagnosed with cervical cancer, had cells taken from her tumor without her consent by medical professionals at Johns Hopkins University, not for the care or treatment of her cancer, but to advance their research. Her cells are directly responsible for medical breakthroughs including the polio and COVID-19 vaccines, in vitro fertilization, and an advancement of cancer and HIV/AIDS research, yet her and her family’s story is another iteration of how systematic medical oppression continues to impact marginalized communities today. Today, we see this marginalization manifest in lack of access to health insurance, prejudice and disbelief the medical community has towards female patients of color, and other forms of inequitable access to quality medical care, with communities of color especially impacted by this systemic harm.
Knowing the significant barriers and inequities in healthcare, it remains critical that employers promote policies that protect and promote the health of all of their employees and their families.
Employers can honor the spirit of Cervical Health Awareness Month in several ways:
Include Preventative Care in Your Healthcare Coverage Offerings: : Cervical Health Awareness Month is an opportunity for employers to examine their healthcare policies to ensure employees and their families have access important and vital preventative healthcare services, such as cervical cancer screenings and access to HPV vaccinations that can prevent cervical cancer. Last year, Federal Judge Reed O’Connor controversially overturned “a portion of the Affordable Care Act that makes preventive services, such as some cancer screenings, free to enrollees, a decision that could affect health insurance policyholders nationwide.” While cervical cancer screenings will still be covered regardless of the outcome of the case, many other forms of preventative care are at risk. As the case, Braidwood Management Inc. v. Becerra, gets appealed to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, both insurers and employers must continue to make employee healthcare a priority that fulfills all employee needs. No matter the result of the Braidwood case, employers can stand for their employees’ health.
Cancer-Related Accommodations: If one of your employees has cervical cancer, or any other form of cancer, ensure your workplace is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and provides reasonable accommodations for employees, such as flexible work hours and remote work.
Spread Awareness: The American Sexual Health Association has provided an HPV and Cervical Cancer Social Media Toolkit. Show your employees and your audience your support for health promotion by using elements of the social media toolkit within internal or external communications.
Creating safe, equitable, and respectful workplace environments is essential to an organization and their employees’ health, well-being and productivity. Throughout 2024, there are a variety of health awareness months. Starting with Cervical Health Awareness Month, RALIANCE will continue to share guidance and resources for the best ways employers and other leaders can improve their organizational policies to promote a workplace culture where everyone can thrive.
RALIANCE is a trusted adviser for organizations committed to building cultures that are safe, equitable, and respectful. RALIANCE offers unparalleled expertise in serving survivors of sexual harassment, misconduct, and abuse which drives our mission to help organizations across sectors create inclusive environments for all. For more information, please visit www.RALIANCE.org.