Remarks of First Lady Anita Perry Women in Government- HPV and Cervical Cancer Summit 2005
Thank you Rep. Delisi. (Dianne), it is a pleasure to share the stage with a woman who works tirelessly to promote women’s issues, among many others, and has been such a strong advocate for the improved health of all Texans.
I am honored to be here in the presence of so many remarkable, strong, intelligent, hard working, determined … need I go on… extraordinary, notable, accomplished people who care deeply about women’s health issues.
You are fighting for the wellbeing of women all over the nation and setting a standard for cancer treatment that is unsurpassed.
You have inspired many, and I applaud the work you have accomplished, but we are not finished….
We are all here because there is more that needs to be done.
I wish I could say that I am coming today to speak as an academic to fill you in on the latest research….but in fact, I’m am simply a fan of those who will deliver such remarks.
I am here today as yet another American passionate about this topic and eager to learn what these bright minds will bring forward to make this world a better place.
Health care has been a labor of love for me since I was a young girl. My father was a doctor in our small Texas town and I saw first hand the difference he made—the way people came to him for help.
I saw how he encouraged them to live healthier lives. Yes, ladies and the gentlemen, even in the land of chicken fried steak, my Daddy worked to spread the word that a healthy lifestyle is a prescription that must be filled everyday.
Although on the rare occasion, I’d catch a little cream gravy and fried okra on his own plate! Nobody’s perfect --- but I’m glad to say because he almost all the time lived his message – he’s still one of the healthiest men I know.
When I was a nurse, I tried to make a difference as my father had, and even though I am no longer treating patients in hospitals, I’m still working to improve the health of our state’s citizens- whether working to improve immunization rates, speaking about heart disease or promoting healthy habits and lifestyles.
Today, I am here, because like you, I want my daughters’ generation to see that a conference like this is unnecessary.
No, I’m not here as a medical expert. I am here because I’m a woman concerned about the future of healthcare and truly excited about the possibilities before us.
As you continue the weekend, discussing HPV and cervical cancer - which kills approximately a quarter-million women worldwide each year, we should also keep our eyes open to the broad scope of women’s health and women’s lives.
It’s something I witness over and over as I travel and speak with women:
In our own lives, as women, many times it is our health that takes a back seat to other priorities.
Many of us are wives and mothers, daughters and friends and while loving and nurturing these relationships are a privilege none of us would ever trade, this is not – to say the least- an easy job, especially when juggling a career as well.
The fact of the matter is women’s roles have changed a great deal in the past century – and we must look at how we address healthcare issues in a different way than with our mothers or grandmothers.
Today, women are breadwinners, caregivers, and every role in between.
And often times the one not taken care of….is the caregiver.
All the scientific knowledge in the world won’t be effective unless we make certain that the message is delivered and becomes a part of everyday life.
Like many women in this room, I often concentrate more on making sure my husband or children make it to their medical check-ups, rather than scheduling my own.
I’ll put off exercising by running a few more errands or accepting another commitment.
Although we might feel pulled in many directions and spread thin, we cannot afford to shrug off taking care of our own health.
Preventative health care and healthy habits – like exercise and proper nutrition and a consistent healthcare routine are essential to our success.
We know it –we must live it – and we must actively take part in spreading the message to all women.
We’ve seen success in the past. Look at the way our language has evolved: mammogram and stress test are now common terms.
I don’t know about you, but I stopped cold in my tracks the first time I heard a cereal commercial promoting folic acid. A conversation about folic acid ----outside the hospital. Now THAT’s coming a long way baby!
Let me give you one other example of research to reality.
Last year, I was honored to speak at the 50th anniversary of the Salk Clinical Field Trials, which led to the polio vaccine.
In 1952, more than 57,000 people were victims of acute polio – just in the United States. More than 3,000 died.
More than forty years later, the Western Hemisphere was declared polio-free.
I had to explain to a staff member at the ceremony how an iron lung worked because she had never seen one. The polio vaccine was an accepted fact of life she had always known. When people recognize the importance of the message they will live accordingly.
Now, people don’t talk about iron lungs or swimming pool warnings when talking about HPV and cervical cancer.
But in my mind….there is no reason why knowledge about HPV and cervical cancer can not be as common as information about childhood immunizations, mammogram, and yes folic acid.
There’s no reason why it can’t be……but there are so many reasons why it must!
Last year in Texas – we had more than 1,100 reasons.
More than 1,100 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer last year in Texas. Today, I am confident that through our efforts like we’ve seen in Texas and the work at this conference, we will see that number decrease.
Governor Perry has continued to focus attention on women’s health and has made building a healthy Texas a priority.
Most recently Rick signed into law two bills that targeted cervical cancer.
A bill, championed by Rep. Delisi, requires Texas’ Department of State Health Services in collaboration with the Texas Cancer Council and others to develop a strategic plan for eliminating cervical cancer mortality by the year 2015.
Another bill addresses pap tests and similar diagnostic testing for HPV, making sure that these screenings are covered under health insurance plans.
Under Governor Perry’s direction, Texas has also made certain that low-income women without insurance who were diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer under the Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program were extended full Medicaid benefits. This funding was again maintained through the last session.
As Rick and I continue to support issues facing women today, I offer this: I vow that on our end we will continue to be just as dedicated to spreading the word about cervical cancer eradication and treatment as you are to those people you serve.
And as a result of working together and making our message a priority for a healthy lifestyle - thousands of women will live safer, healthier lives.
Elie Wiesel, a holocaust survivor, once said …
“… To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.”
We will not be silent, nor will we be indifferent.
You are dedicated, you inspire and you will make a difference.
This is a tremendous gathering and a tremendous opportunity.
God bless you all and the women whose futures will be full because of your efforts.
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