National Women’s Health Week—May 12-18—is a reminder for all women to take care of themselves and to make their personal health a priority. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health created National Women’s Health Week, now in its 20th year, to encourage women to build positive health habits.
The recommendations—familiar but often overlooked in our stressful, busy lives—merit repeating: eat healthily, get active, pay attention to mental health, avoid unhealthy behaviors, and visit a health professional for regular primary care and preventive screenings. Alcohol screening and brief intervention is recommended for adults as a routine primary care practice.
Several factors make it particularly important that social workers screen for, and talk to women about, risky drinking during their health visit. Heavy alcohol use and binge drinking among women has increased substantially over the past decade.
Excessive alcohol use is linked to alcohol-related health risks, injuries and chronic conditions. These can occur more rapidly and be more pronounced in women, due to sex differences in physiology. Women also face unique risks to reproductive health and birth outcomes, including alcohol-exposed pregnancy and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs).
NASW, the NASW Foundation and the University of Texas at Austin have joined other leading medical organizations and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a national initiative to educate health professionals about the importance of screening women for risky alcohol use. In particular, the initiative focuses on the importance of communicating a clear and consistent message: no alcohol use during pregnancy— there is no safe time, no safe type, no known safe amount.
As essential members of clinical teams serving women of reproductive age, social workers are poised to conduct alcohol screenings and deliver brief interventions as a routine preventive practice. Visit the NASW website Behavioral Health Practice Section for resource links. Learn more about FASD training on the Centers for Disease Control website.