Guest commentary: Make your health a priority this Women’s Health Month

Every May, we celebrate Women’s Health Month to encourage women and girls to make their health a priority.

Establishing a trusted medical home with a provider that you can be open with is vital to not only preventing health issues, but also supporting your overall health and wellbeing. At Northwest Colorado Health, our low-cost, integrated health services help women achieve their best, whole-body health at any age.

The first step to overall health is to establish your medical home. This is your home base for essential medical care — where you go when you are sick, need a physical or health screening or have health concerns.



Patients at our clinics have access to a team of providers that may include behavioral health support and dental care, if needed. You can also get help with health insurance enrollment, resources to help pay for prescriptions and health services, access to healthy living resources and arrangements for specialty care.

Having a medical home can make you more confident in seeking healthcare (especially for sometimes-uncomfortable topics), and improve your chances for good health in the future.



Regular checkups are important, not only when something doesn’t feel right, but also to help prevent disease. Annual well-woman visits are crucial for testing for potential health problems.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all women receive cervical cancer screenings with a Pap test starting at age 21. Pap tests can detect abnormal or precancerous cell changes in the cervix and have helped make cervical cancer — once the leading cause of cancer death in women — One of the most preventable and successfully treated cancers.

If you’re over 21, you should get checked for cervical cancer every three years. If you are 30-65, you can get both Pap and HPV tests every five years. Breast exams are also important, and women over age 40 may have the option to start screening with a mammogram every year.

An annual exam may also include important immunizations, sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV testing, and pregnancy tests. When appropriate, we offer PrEP (medicine to lower risk of getting HIV), PEP (medicine to prevent HIV after possible exposure), and birth control, including low or no cost long-acting reversible contraception (LARCS).

Emotional health is an important part of our overall health, and research shows that positive mental health is associated with improved overall health and well-being. When you establish our clinic as your medical home for primary care, you also have access to behavioral health support.

Behavioral health providers work hand-in-hand with medical providers to promote the health of patients who may be struggling with chronic medical problems, stress, sadness, substance use, sleep problems and weight management. Patients often work with both medical and behavioral health providers during the same visit.

We know that caring for the whole person extends outside of our clinic walls. You’ll have access to low-cost programs and services that can support women of all ages with the tools and resources to prevent disease and injury and live as healthy as possible.

These include access to health insurance enrollment and nutrition assistance, support for first-time moms and parents of young children, fitness and health programs for older adults, diabetes and cardiovascular disease screening and education, and home health to recover from an illness or injury.

Take control of your health. Make an appointment at one of our Community Health Centers. Call 970-824-8233 in Craig or 970-879-1632 in Steamboat Springs. To learn more about all of our programs and services available to support women’s health visit http://www.NorthwestColoradoHealth.org.

Jaclyn McDonald is Marketing Coordinator at Northwest Colorado Health. She can be reached at jmcdonald@northwestcoloradohealth.org.

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