May 09, 2016

Put On Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Protect Yourself to Protect Others

You’ve likely heard this common flight attendant refrain: “In case of emergency, put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.”

Why is this important? Because oxygen is essential to be alive, and if you are alive, you can help others; no oxygen, not alive, no helping others.

Seems simple, right?

And this is an important metaphor for women’s health as well.

Women are often the ultimate caregivers, and as such, sometimes our own health needs are pushed aside in order to attend to the needs of everyone around us. But in reality, we’re doing the opposite of what we need to do. We need to put our own oxygen mask on first — by attending to our own health — so that we can be here for as long as possible, caring for everyone else in our lives as well.

This week is National Women’s Health Week. With busy lives, energetic kids, grandkids and/or pets, most women just don’t have time to get sick. For many of us, advice and information from a trusted health care provider plays an important role in not only the decision to get vaccinated, but to follow through on many other activities that keep us healthy.

 As Executive Director of Immunize Nevada, and with three teenagers at home, I definitely don’t have time to get sick! I get a flu shot every year, I got my Tdap shot when my niece was born, and I recently took time for my annual well-woman visit and my mammogram. It’s important for me to continue getting my yearly Pap test because of my history with HPV infection. I also have dense breast tissue which makes my yearly mammogram extra important, and my busy life caused me to overlook it last year. I promised myself that would never happen again!

The good news is you don’t have to worry about the cost for your annual well-woman visit. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most private health plans must cover this visit, along with many other preventive care benefits. That means the visit will be free for you, even if you haven't met your yearly deductible. If you don't have insurance, you can still see a provider by finding a health center near you that will charge you what you can afford, based on your income. Nevada has a number of these health center locations across all areas of the state.

Get the conversation started at your next well-woman visit (if you are pregnant, prenatal care can also be a well-woman visit) with this list from the Office on Women’s Health and pledge to follow one or all of the steps below. Some of these are easier to do than others, but Nevada has great resources to help you.

As you are being your healthiest you this week, share a healthy-selfie with us! Post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and tag @ImmunizeNV #healthyselfie #NWHW. I took my #healthyselfie on my weekend run as I'm training for the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey.

And remember: Put that mask on yourself first, and don’t feel guilty doing it. When you take care of yourself, you’re ensuring that you’ll be protecting others for as long as humanly possible.

Heidi Parker, MA

As executive director of Immunize Nevada, Heidi Parker, MA leads and engages a diverse coalition of staff, volunteers, member organizations and funders so they are passionate about vaccines and access to preventive health care across Nevada’s rural, urban and frontier communities. Bringing over two decades of experience in nonprofit program management, fundraising and marketing, she has dedicated her career to being able to affect her community in a positive way, whether working with Head Start families, victims of violence, college students or Nevadans needing immunizations.

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