In observance of National Women's Health Week, a weeklong health observance supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office on Women's Health, the RIDOC has arranged for a variety of activities and lectures in the Women's Facilities throughout the week ending on Friday, May 18th.
On Monday morning, May 14th, female inmates were informed of an opportunity to write about "What does health mean to you, and how has it impacted your life?" They were told they could write poems, essays and drawings to be shared with fellow inmates and staff in a collaborative book with the theme Women, Power, and Health. Contributors will have the opportunity to present their submission on Friday, May 18th, at the conclusion of Women's Health Week, from 1:15 – 2 p.m. Because the book will be shared publicly, only first names will be used, and Acting Warden Donna Collins will review the final document for appropriateness of content before duplication.
Among the topics the women were told to consider when preparing their submissions for the book are: 1) Self esteem, exercise, and body perception; 2) What makes a powerful woman?; 3) What health challenges have you overcome and how have you been able to do it?; 4) Heroes in health – write about a powerful man or woman who has changed the world of health and medicine; 5) How has addiction impacted your life?; and 6) What are the most important things a woman can do on her own to protect her health?
In addition to participating in the group book activity, female inmates have been invited to various talks with RIDOC medical personnel and outside speakers. Topics to be covered include the importance of exercise, nutrition, sexually transmitted diseases, and overdose prevention. Dr. Deborah Fuller, a dentist with the Department of Health, spoke about oral hygiene. Other speakers included the RIDOC's Director of Medical Programs Dr. Fritz Vohr, soon to retire Assistant Director for Rehabilitative Services and former Warden of the Women's Facilities Roberta Richman, RIDOC Parenting Coordinator TeLisa Richardson, and Janis Furlong from Lifespan's Community Health Division.
The week's activities have been arranged by the RIDOC's Public Health Promotion Specialist and Coordinator of the Women's Health Initiative Patricia Threats and Landon Kuester, RIDOC intern and Doctoral Candidate in Medical Sociology at the Centre for Research on Drugs and Health Behaviour, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London, UK. The idea to do something to observe the week came from the RIDOC's Substance Abuse Coordinator Lauranne Howard, who received an e-mail about National Women's Health Week and suggested that the Department recognize it. All of this was done under the authority of Acting Warden of the Women's Facilities Donna Collins and Deputy Warden Cynthia Drake.
Landon Kuester is doing his research at the ACI through the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. In addition to helping to plan and coordinate this week's activities and other special projects, he has been teaching an intense "Butts and Guts" exercise class under the auspices of the Women's Health Initiative at the women's facilities on Wednesdays at 12:30. "We are actively trying to implement positive changes in the Women's Facilities," notes Pat Threats, "to get the women to be more conscious of their health, more active, and to make better use of their time in prison."
Members of the press who are interested in attending any of the presentations should contact Tracey E. Zeckhausen, Chief of Information and Public Relations, at (401) 462-2609 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, so that clearance can be arranged for entry into the women's facilities.