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Indiana State Department of Health

Office of Women's Health Office of Women's Health

Welcome to Indiana State Department of Health’s Office of Women’s Health webpage.  The Office of Women’s Health (OWH) is so pleased that you have chosen to learn about how our state is working to help improve the health of women.  We believe that every woman should have access to free, up-to-date and reliable resources to find out information about her health.  The Office of Women’s Health wants to ensure that each woman and girl in Indiana is aware of her own health status, risks and goals, and can achieve optimal health through access, education and advocacy.  Our website is inclusive of all OWH’s programs, and has a page of resources to help guide you in improving your health.  If you have any questions or need information that is not included on our website, please feel free to call 317-233-9156 or email  Thank you so much for visiting our site, and we wish you good health!

Warmest regards,
Laura Chavez, MPH, CLC
Director, Office of Women’s Health

Updates and Current News

  • Governor Mike Pence has declared August 1 - 7 World Breastfeeding Week in Indiana! 

Indiana supports all nursing mothers and babies, and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) strives to help all families meet their breastfeeding goals.  Visit the Divison of Maternal Child Health and the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program  for more information about breastfeeding initatives at ISDH.

  • World Breastfeeding Week in 2015 is focused on supporting nursing mothers in workplaces.  Check out the flyer below and find ways to support breastfeeding in your community!

  • Check out OWH's newly updated Resources page to find local and national resources for common women's health topics!

News to Use

Heart disease, which can lead to heart attack and stroke, has been dubbed the “silent killer” among women.  Given women’s busy lives today, often symptoms of heart disease are ignored, or blamed on acid reflux, indigestion, or even the flu. 

In Indiana, almost one-third of all deaths are caused by heart disease and stroke. During 2013, 13,630 Indiana residents died from heart disease, making it the leading cause of death overall. Approximately 3,061 Indiana residents died from stroke during that same year.

Heart Attack Symptoms

According to the American Heart Association, women should seek immediate medical help if they experience the following symptoms:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest - especially if it lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. Women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Stroke Warning Signs

Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and Indiana. In addition, it’s among the leading causes of long-term disability.  It is important for women to recognize signs of stroke, including:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  3. Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause

Every minute counts!

Experts advise to never wait more than five minutes to dial 9-1-1 if you, or a loved one, experience even one of the signs above. In addition, the responding emergency medical technician or ER nurse at the hospital will need to know when the first symptom occurred, so if possible, make note of the time when symptoms first start.

Lifestyle Changes are the Key

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), modifying your lifestyle can cut your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.  By maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, and exercising regularly, women can reduce their chances of heart disease and stroke. In addition, limiting the use of alcohol and quitting the use of tobacco products can decrease risk.

The CDC’s Million Hearts Pledge outlines actions that can help reduce heart attacks and strokes. The Pledge encourages women to:

  • Prevent heart disease and stroke by understanding the risks
  • Get up and get active by exercising for 30 minutes on most days of the week
  • Know your ABCS:  Appropriate aspirin therapy, Blood pressure control, Cholesterol management, and Smoking cessation

For more information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health website at

Spotlight on Women's Health

Everybody feels sad or down occasionally, but when those feelings creep along from days into weeks and months, depression may be the culprit.

Depression is very common, but it is also quite serious.  It occurs more frequently in women than in men.  Many women suffer in silence, hoping the symptoms will go away on their own.  The truth is that depression requires treatment, and with treatment women can recover.  Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating, or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.³   

Treatment for depression may vary on the severity of an individual’s experience.  However, some common forms of treatment and support include:

  • Medication prescribed by a doctor or psychiatrist
  • Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy”
  • Support groups
  • Relaxation techniques such as guided meditation or yoga
  • Physical exercise.

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, please talk to your doctor.  Depression is not normal, and will not go away on its own.  There is no shame in feeling better, so educate yourself,            reach out and seek treatment.  For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health or the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.  If you are having thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please       call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or chat online with trained professionals at

Movers and Shakers in Women's Health

80% by 2018: A Nationwide Initiative to Save More through Screening More

Shalom staff members educating patients on the importance of colorectal screening.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States among men and women combined, yet it’s one of the most preventable.

Dozens of groups, including the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have committed to work together to increase the nation’s colon cancer screening rates and embrace the goal of reaching 80% screened for colorectal cancer by 2018.

Hundreds of organizations, including medical professional societies, non-profits, health plans, government, health departments, survivors, cancer coalitions and medical practices, have embraced the goal. The number is growing every day. Achieving an 80 percent screening rate by 2018 will require the collaboration of many leaders. Primary health care providers can also be part of the solution.

Shalom Health Center Joins the Initiative

Dr. Ortega, CEO and Dr. Bedford, CMO sign the 80% by 2018, pictured with members of the ACS board and staff

On May 21, 2015, Shalom Health Center, a health care center in Indianapolis, joined the nationwide 80% by 2018 initiative. Shalom Health Center has been working hard to raise colorectal awareness and screening rates. To accomplish this, they have implemented several American Cancer Society recommended interventions.

Evidence-based interventions help FQHCs meet their needs of UDS reporting, PCMH certification and quality improvement. Evidence-based intervention is the most effective approach that has been shown to work. Shalom Health Center is increasing their colorectal screening rates. Signing the 80% by 2018 pledge speaks to their continued commitment.

Shalom Health Center & the American Cancer Society: A Partnership on the Rise

Rafael Aguilar educating the participants at this year’s Relay for Life event

By working together, Shalom Health Center and the American Cancer Society are bridging the gap in health inequities, including those in women's health. As part of this developing partnership, Shalom Health Center has been awarded an American Cancer Society CHANGE grant for the past two years.

In 2011, the American Cancer Society launched its CHANGE Grant program to award grants to health systems reaching under-served populations.

Shalom Health Center was selected, out of several nationwide applicants, to educate and screen patients regarding colorectal cancer. Because of their dedication, they have seen an increase in the number of people being screened.

At the American Cancer Society, June is known as the month of Relay for Life. The organization’s signature fundraiser not only raises money for the fight against all cancer types, but also celebrates cancer survivorship.   In June 2015, Shalom Health Center was a participant at the Relay for Life of Speedway. During the opening ceremony, a representative from Shalom gave a welcome to the participants. They also had a vendor booth at the event that allowed them the opportunity to reach out to more of the community.   

Shalom Health is a community-centered organization. As part of their outreach to the community, they will be hosting their annual health fair on July 25, 2015. The event will be held at their location, 3400 Lafayette Road from 10:00 am – 2:00 pm.  Last year, over 2500 people attended. Participants will receive free health screenings, sports physicals, backpacks, food and entertainment. The American Cancer Society is proud to be a part of this event, along with several other organizations.

Info to Know:  The role of the American Cancer Society’s Primary Care Health Systems Team is to work alongside community-based health care centers,  to increase screening rates and raise awareness about the importance of preventative health care.

This article contributed by Yolanda Wide, Health Systems Manager, Primary Care, for the American Cancer Society

The Office of Women’s Health recognizes that advancements in women’s health do not happen on their own.  There are many amazing women and men behind the scenes working to improve the health of our Indiana communities through tireless efforts and advocacy for women’s health.  If you know an individual or group whose creativity, innovative work or diligent efforts have made a real difference in your community, and would like this individual or group highlighted in the “Movers and Shakers” section of the OWH webpage, please email Laura Chavez, Director of the Office of Women’s Health, at

Keep up with OWH!

  • Visit the Office of Women’s Health webpage for regular updates on women’s health-related issues and community services and programs that help promote women’s health and wellness across the state.
  • Follow OWH on Twitter @inwomenshealth for daily updates on women’s health facts and resources.
  • Subscribe below to receive the OWH Wellness Watch newsletter, a monthly e-newsletter with information on many women's health issues and upcoming health-related events in Indiana.  Click here to view past newsletters.

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