Cover Photo: Dr Chander M. Kapasi
“Celebrating Women’s Health” published by the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Charitable Foundation puts women’s health on the forefront this year. With a focus on prevention, early intervention and adoption of a healthy lifestyle, the calendar covers women’s health concerns through their lifecycle, from being healthy as children and adolescents to causes, symptoms and management of PMS, steps for a healthy pregnancy and management of menopause.
Highlighting the top 10 causes of death among women in the US, the calendar includes information about risk factors for and early warning signs of common chronic diseases as well as a list of preventive guidelines and age-appropriate screenings and hints to help quit smoking. Also included are suggestions for weight loss, a list of healthy foods, nutritive value of common foods and guidelines for choosing a personal trainer.
The calendar has been compiled and produced by Dr. Chander M. Kapasi, chairperson of the AAPI Charitable Foundation to assist in raising funds for charitable projects carried out by the Foundation. Created in 2005, the Foundation has provided assistance to victims of calamities in the US and India and has also established 17 free clinics in India. The calendar is available through AAPI Charitable Foundation, 365 Parker Street, Newton, MA 02459 for a tax-deductible donation of $20 per copy and $5 for postage.
What was the inspiration behind creating this calendar?
I have a background in public health and am an active alumna of the Harvard School of Public Health. For several years now, I have wanted to create something to raise awareness of critical health issues for women. This was finally made possible through a generous memorial donation from Dr. Hansa Topiwala. We wanted to honor Dr. Topiwala in a permanent manner through this calendar, which can be widely shared and used by women to improve their health.
Is there any specific reason for the topics included in the calendar?
The topics have been selected on the basis of disease prevalence. We invited a number of women and some men to offer guidance and inspiration and chose the most relevant responses. The presentation of the information was also decided after careful thought. For example, most fitness resolutions are made on New Year’s Day, so we have highlighted the physical and mental benefits of regular exercise in January. Cardiovascular diseases are common in the Northeast during the winter months, especially from January to February, so we have included information about risk factors, early signs and prevention for heart disease and stroke in the month of February. Many women face acute stress and depression during and after the holiday season, so we focus on the benefits of Yoga and Meditation in December.
Can you share your thoughts on the format?
A calendar is a great place to record progress. As doctors, we often focus on acute responses to disease or injury. However, research shows that lifestyle changes make a difference. When you do anything for a sequence of weeks, it becomes a habit and those types of incremental changes to diet and exercise can have a huge life-long impact. For example, those who follow healthy habits such as not smoking, not being obese, engaging in regular physical activity, and eating a healthy diet, lower their heart disease risk by nearly 50%. Our calendar specifically includes columns to record progress towards health goals for that month and outline goals for the next month to encourage women to maintain a continuous record of personal goals.
Do you have any special message for our readers on the occasion of International Women’s Day?
For over 46 years now, I have had the opportunity to work or witness women‘s health initiatives and outcomes in India, Hawaii, Taiwan, Japan, Dubai, Kenya, Tanzania and here in the US. Women have come a long way and are driving forces of the world. While traditional gender roles continue to evolve, we still see a strong correlation between maternal health and family outcomes. As mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, women have a huge impact on their families. Keeping women healthy keeps families and communities healthy.
*Navami Naik is an Atlanta-based public health and communications professional.