Traditionally, good old Mom took care of the family's health care needs.
She made sure that Johnny's immunization record was up to date, that hubby's sick allowance at work was not depleted by baby Tiffany's contagious virus and that Karen's mood swings didn't interfere with pep club practices.When the doctor wasn't available, Mom made sure that comforting chicken soup and a hot water bottle were.
Times have changed. Women have moved into the work force or expanded the role of homemaker. They're living longer and changing their lifestyle along the way. Health has become a larger concern for women as they have added to the many demands on their lives.
"It reflects a very healthy attitude change in society and among women who are realizing their own importance as individuals and are not only seeking out better jobs and careers, but good health care for themselves," said Dr. William R. Keye, associate professor and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at the University of Utah Medical Center.
In assuming more responsibility for their own health, women are also asking more questions about health problems and practices.
"Infertility used to be a taboo topic of discussion," Keye said. "Now it's OK not only to talk about that but such other things as hot flashes. There's increased acceptability of personal health matters as topics of discussions."
It hasn't been all talk.
Society has seen a surge in women's clinics and physicians specializing in female health care. Hospitals increasingly are promoting women's health care _ a previously untapped market. Alta View, Cottonwood, LDS, McKay-Dee and University are among the many hospitals that have a major emphasis on women's health issues.
Competing for customers, each facility is promoting the particular services their specialists can provide _ everything from basic obstetric to high-risk maternity services and from mammography to high-tech treatment for gynecological cancer. They also offer educational classes in stress management, diet, postpartum depression, aging and infertility.
Sophisticated medical advances, especially in the field of gynecology, have emerged. Many women unable to conceive in the past now can _ thanks to modern technology. Ten years ago the first so-called "test-tube" baby was born. Now the University of Utah's in vitro fertilization program has a take-home baby rate of 25 percent.
There are also better treatments for fetal distress and for the symptoms of postpartum depression, premenstrual syndrome, osteoporosis and menopause.
This is good news to Utah women who are living longer.
"At the turn of the century, a woman's life expectancy was 45 to 48 years. Now they are living to age 75 or 80, or much longer than that," said Dr. Mary K. Beard, a local obstetrician/gynecologist. "We are seeing women who are still quite healthy up into their 90s."
Wanting to feel well longer, many woman as well as men are showing a strong interest in preventive medicine. They are eating better, exercising more.
"Thanks to more and more media exposure, women are taking more pride in their appearance, which shouldn't be considered frivolous because pride in one's appearance is the most visible indicator of good self-image and good mental health," said Dr. David L. Dingman, associate professor in the Division of Plastic Surgery at the U.
The number of plastic surgeons practicing in Utah has doubled in the past five years, and each one's case load has increased considerably.
"The sheer numbers would indicate that all types of body enhancement, whether it be surgical or activity-related, is more popular than it was 10 years ago," Dingman said.
Celebrities have helped put good health in vogue.
Dr. R. Dirk Noyes, a surgical oncologist, said every time one of America's leading ladies, whether it be Nancy Reagan or Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, makes her breast cancer public, it rapidly filters down to the local level.
"My practice picks up considerably."
In general, the physicians concur that women are becoming more aggressive in taking responsibility for their health care.
"I have encouraged women to be participants, not just recipients, in their health care," Beard said. "I think it's very important they not only become more informed, but also more involved in the decision-making.