More than 13,000 women from across Kentucky have volunteered to help medical researchers gather crucial information to guide the development and delivery of women's health care services.
Through their participation in the Kentucky Women's Health Registry, these volunteers also gain valuable information about their own health.
The registry, the outreach arm of the Center for the Advancement of Women's Health at the University of Kentucky, is the first statewide registry of women's health in the United States.
The first thing the registry does is help make women more aware of their health and circumstances that affect their overall well-being. This awareness has a "ripple" effect: As women become more aware, so do their families and close friends.
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The registry also collects information through a survey that asks women about all aspects of their health. This information helps researchers interested in women's health discover how issues such as chronic pain, education, stress, caregiver responsibilities and smoking (to name just a few) affect women's overall health.
The registry gives this information back, to help give women the tools they need to improve their own health and that of their families, as well as to aid women's health providers to better serve their patients.
Data from the registry is already proving invaluable in important medical studies. One study, published earlier this month in the Journal of Women's Health, looks at the association of adverse pregnancy events and cardiovascular disease in women 50 and over.
Our long-term goal is to enlist 30,000 women from every county in Kentucky to be a part of the registry. Each year, we also ask women who previously joined to complete a new survey. By having women complete a new survey each year, researchers can see collectively how things change in women's lives and how those changes impact their health.
Any woman from age 18-89 living in the commonwealth is eligible to join the registry, and it costs nothing to participate.
The registry has obtained a Certificate of Confidentiality from the National Institute of Health, which provides volunteers assurance that their information will never be sold. For more information about the Kentucky Women's Health Registry, visit www.kywomensregistry.com or call 1-800-929-2320.
■ Too busy to go — 29 percent
■ Difficulty in getting an appointment — 23 percent
■ Can't afford the co-pay — 10 percent
■ Couldn't get time off work — 8 percent
■ Didn't want anyone to know they had a problem — 7 percent
source: Kentucky women's health registry