December 10, 2001

The women’s center program has also launched a research campaign to delve into health issues troubling women in Israel and abroad.Hadassah Medical Center boasts the first all-in-one clinic in Israel, serving a myriad of women’s health needs, and is among the first of such centers in the world. Doctors at the women’s centers aim to offer patients the opportunity to receive several exams and consultations in three to four hours, in one location. Organizers say they hope to revolutionize women’s health care, setting an example of preventative medicine, convenience and a focus on female health as a whole.

The new, comprehensive program, located both at Ein Kerem and Hadassah Medical Center, Mt. Scopus, opened in June and offers services such as mammograms, stress tests, fertility counseling and treatment, and a PMS clinic.

“Women today are busy,” said Dr. Amnon Brzezinsky, center director at Ein Kerem. “The idea is to let her have all the top experts in each field in one place, and to make it easy for her.”

Brzezinsky praised the convenient and clean, modern center as a vast improvement over the former women’s clinic, where he first worked as a medical student 20 years ago.

“We’re looking at the woman as a whole,” said nurse and midwife Nava Braverman, who helps coordinate the clinic at Ein Kerem. “We now know that women are different and need to be treated differently; we react differently to stress and medication, physically and psychologically. … We have to look at what she’s doing to improve her health, such as exercise. The aim is to prevent. We are trying to look at the quality of life, not just treatment of illness.”

Programs and services at both clinics are varied. They offer low-cost screenings and services to adolescent girls, post-menopausal women and women over 65. Women in their 20s to middle age can use the all-in-one clinics, but must pay out of pocket for a regular check up. By comparison, women living in retirement homes can take advantage of the same service at reduced rates. Doctors said they hope to develop another low-cost program focused on middle-age.

Currently, the clinic runs an annual check-up program for women 40-65 for a comprehensive exam. These women spend a few hours passing through stations for medical services such as mammograms, pap smears and consultations with a dietician, sex therapist or plastic surgeon.

“She comes out with a bill of health,” said Dr. Neri Laufer, a fertility specialist chairing the obstetrics and gynecology department at Ein Kerem. “This focuses on women who have to change their lifestyle because they’re approaching menopause.”

The “Golden Age” program for women over 65, subsidized by Hadassah, offers patients access to specialists such as gynecologists who focus on urinary health or geriatric medicine. The clinics also serve girls coping with puberty. Adolescent girls pay reduced fees to see nurses, psychologists, dermatologists or dieticians.

The medical center at Mount Scopus is offering a series of lectures called Bria, as part of the new women’s health center. Topics will include sexuality, breast health and symptoms of menopause. The women’s center team has also organized a new community outreach program in Beit Shemesh, where hospital staff and 30 volunteers will offer workshops on topics such as nutrition and body image.

The women’s center program has also launched a research campaign to delve into health issues troubling women in Israel and abroad. Researchers are studying problems such as genetic factors affecting new mothers and stress levels after delivery.

“In the Middle East, this research is tremendously neglected,” said Hadassah spokeswoman Barbara Sofer, who moved to Israel from Connecticut 25 years ago. “I’ve found that my sabra women friends were years behind on these issues. They didn’t feel they had the right to ask.

“In the past decade, there’s been a revolution, with women saying, we’d like researchers to take a look at how these things work for women,” Sofer said. “For example, we have to find out why, even if they have the same environment, Jewish women develop cancer at a much higher rate than non-Jewish women.”

The entire project was established by the Fleischmann family of the United States.

“The Fleischmann family, residents of Florida, donated $5 million to establish the entire women’s health center project, including $500,000 per year for the research projects,” Sofer said. Doctors in the center estimated the program could benefit tens of thousands of women, because the two hospitals had been serving about 20,000 to 25,000 per year in different departments. Hadassah physicians also serve about 60,000 to 70,000 female patients at Kupat Cholim clinics.

The program is offering free lectures throughout Jerusalem and open houses to advertise the center’s services.

“We’re trying to focus on certain hard-to-reach groups such as religious women and young women,” Laufer said. “We’re trying to advertise in newspapers and TV. It’s a slow process, but this is just the beginning. I hope it works like everything in medicine; a friend brings a friend. “The idea is to be proactive,” he said. “We’re dealing with major health issues: women’s smoking, diet, exercise and violence in the home.”

“We are trying to put women at the center of everything, to give her very special treatment,” Braverman said. “We are trying to make it a nice place that they will love to come, from the time they are adolescents to old age. When they come to give birth, or whenever they need something,” she said. “We are saying, we are always with you.”

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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