Our Bodies Ourselves: support this pioneer of empowered, participatory healthcare

230px-OurBodiesOurselvesSome people think e-patient ideas are new. They’re not. I’d like to give credit to a noble antecedent, and ask for your support.

Shortly after I discovered this blog (February ’08) I recognized two strong precedents from earlier in my life: Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby Book (opening words: “Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do,”) and Our Bodies, Ourselves.

Dr. Spock was published a few years before me. Our Bodies,  Ourselves came along a year after I graduated college.

About its origins, Wikipedia says:

The health seminar that inspired the booklet was organized in 1969 by Nancy Miriam Hawley at Boston’s Emmanuel College. “We weren’t encouraged to ask questions, but to depend on the so-called experts,” Hawley told Women’s eNews. “Not having a say in our own health care frustrated and angered us. …”

Sound familiar?

These pioneers were empowered, irrepressible, and willing to do what they had to, to be engaged in their own care.

I was just out of college in Boston (where it was published). It was a heady year: the Vietnam war was still going on, the establishment was being overturned in every way possible, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned in disgrace, the Watergate scandal started (leading to Nixon’s resignation in ’74). And now what – women want to look at their genitals?? Unheard-of: in those days, that stuff down there was known as “You know, down there.”)

Well, no more. One thing OBOS taught women was how to examine themselves with a speculum. (Twitter friend @MeredithGould recalls “fond memories of fighting to own [one].”)

Women looking at their anatomy?? Without a doctor present! Good heavens, could they handle the knowledge??

That echos the concerns of some people today who worry that patients can’t handle medical details. Our Declaration of Participatory Medicine begs to differ:

Thomas Jefferson had a radical notion: When the people are well-informed, they can be trusted to govern themselves. This powerful idea worked to end our rule by the King, but at the time it didn’t apply to slaves and it didn’t apply to women. It STILL doesn’t apply to patients. And it should.

Empowerment won: when Our Bodies, Ourselves launched, consumer books on women’s health were rare;  today an Amazon search shows, 31,986.

And now it’s time to give back, people. The book is entering its next edition in 2010. (Our guest blogger Amy Romano is on the editorial team!) Executive Director Judy Norsigian writes:

Like other valuable “social benefit” organizations, Our Bodies Ourselves is facing a very difficult financial period and needs your support more than ever. As we are approaching our 40th anniversary of the first publication of Our Bodies, Ourselves, we hope that you will visit our website, consider all that we do now, and contribute to our longstanding, non-commercial, public interest work that has benefited millions across the globe. I also hope that you will forward this message to others who might value and support what we do.

All contributions large and small greatly appreciated:


Thanks so much.

If you value “e” – if you have a vision that all healthcare will evolve as far as women’s health has, because of these pioneers – I hope you’ll pitch in. Even despite these tough times and being on half salary I just gave $50. Your $5 to $5 million will help, and will honor the work they continue to do.

(And if you haven’t joined the Society for Participatory Medicine yet, do that too! Individuals are just $30 a year!)


Posted in: e-pts resources | policy issues | positive patterns | pt/doc co-care | reforming hc | trends & principles | Why PM




10 Responses to “Our Bodies Ourselves: support this pioneer of empowered, participatory healthcare”

  1. ePatientDave says:

    New on e-patients.net:Our Bodies, Ourselves: support this pioneer of empowered, participatory HC http://is.gd/5dw8u

  2. ePatientDave says:

    I can't believe there's not a single comment on my Our Bodies, Ourselves post. http://is.gd/5dw8u

  3. jeffreybrick says:

    This would make a great ken Burns Documentary or podcast interview!
    THANKS @ePatientDaveYour are a healthcare legend!

  4. Thanks for the mention! It’s true that women had to make a huge big fuss to get a speculum of one’s own during the 1970s. What did we do with them once we got one? Pelvic self-exams, of course. And this, dear children, was before yoga was part of the general fitness landscape.

    All sentimental kidding aside, Our Bodies, Our Selves was, for many of us, the only readily available source of practical health information for women. Wish I still had my copy, the cover of which looked absolutely nothing like the one featured in your post.

  5. Meredith,

    Re the cover, do read the Wikipedia post, which has a brief discussion of the changes in recent editions.

  6. Amy Romano says:

    Cmon folks! RT @ePatientDave: I can't believe there's not a single comment on my Our Bodies, Ourselves post. http://is.gd/5dw8u

  7. Susan McCabe says:

    great, necessary movements never go away, though they may be difficult to sustain over time. as OBOS approaches its 40 anniversary (yes, i’m about as wrinkly as the pages of my original copy), let’s consider supporting a partner in participatory medicine and continue to empower another generation of women to own their bodies. my $$$ is on the way.

  8. Amy Romano says:

    Thanks for this post, Dave! And for the mention. My own first copy of OBOS was “updated for the 90’s” and given to me for Christmas by my “cool aunt”. Then the book was the required text for my first women’s health course in college, which set me squarely on my path to midwifery and advocacy. It’s was quite a full circle moment for me to be asked to be an editor for the 40th edition.

    But I really believe OBOS stands to be an important force in the future, too, especially if we can continue to help bridge OBOS and the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can bet the 40th anniversary book will have PM case studies highlighted (the testimonials and case examples are truly the heart of the book.) OBOS is also deeply involved in advocacy and policy work above and beyond the book – including supporting women’s groups globally, supporting legislation that would form a midwifery regulatory board in Massachusetts, and much more. OBOS is worthy of our support for their history alone, but so much more so for their future!

    And yes, I’m biased! :)

  9. Our Bodies Ourselves: support this pioneer of empowered, participatory #healthcare | #hcn #epatient #wellness http://ping.fm/ygmMW

  10. RFID Reader : says:

    my first baby book is a photobook for developing kids and this is a great baby book for beginners *

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