Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.

Cancer is another major cause of death among women. Skin cancer is the most common form, followed by breast (second most common) and colon cancer.

Earlier this year, North Dakota State University Extension launched Healthwise for Women, a program to help women of all ages learn more about those diseases and how to reduce their risk of developing them. The program also includes information on gynecological cancers, diabetes prevention, and overweight and obesity.

“We developed Healthwise for Women because women requested it,” says NDSU Extension food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, who led the effort to create the program. “As the program expands across North Dakota and beyond, we look forward to hearing how women apply the information in their daily lives.”

Healthwise for Women is a companion program to Healthwise for Guys, which NDSU Extension launched in 2018 with information for men. That program offers resources on heart disease; colon, prostate and skin cancer; high blood pressure; overweight and obesity; and prediabetes.

Both programs were funded in part with a grant from the North Dakota Department of Health’s North Dakota Comprehensive Cancer Control Program.

Each program has a website:

The Healthwise for Women website includes NDSU Extension fact sheets and other resources; links to information from sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association and American Cancer Society; and a link to sign up for diabetes prevention classes.

The Healthwise for Guys website has fact sheets on several key health topics, easy-to-make recipes and links to research-based information on health, nutrition and physical activity. The program also includes PowerPoint presentations, displays, a toolkit with handouts and other materials such as games and experiments/demonstrations for interactive learning, and Facebook and Twitter posts with information on heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity.

The toolkits are in 23 counties throughout North Dakota. Extension agents in several counties offer classes and interactive displays. In addition, Extension agriculture and natural resources agents have incorporated education on preventing skin cancer from prolonged sun exposure into their training on pesticide use and safety. Extension also has partnered with registered nurses from local public health units, who help teach sessions in some counties.

Nelson County producer Russell Hoge was one of those who learned about skin cancer during an Extension pesticide certification training, and that lesson has changed his behavior.

“I try to use sunscreen more often and wear long sleeves,” he says.

Hoge also is sharing what he learned with his family.

“I’m after my wife and kids all the time to cover their skin,” he says. “I’ve noticed changes in my wife’s skin and have been after her to get to a doctor.”

Nearly 800 men participated in Healthwise for Guys programming during the first six months of the program. In follow-up surveys in the three cancer-related sessions, most of the participants reported that their knowledge increased, they know where to go for health and nutrition information, and are sharing what they learned. A follow-up survey of those participants indicated that:

  • 50 percent are eating more fruits and vegetables
  • 42 percent are doing skin self-checks
  • 25 percent are wearing hats with brims in the sun
  • 25 percent are using SPF (sun protection factor) 30 sunscreen
  • 33 percent are having a health professional check their skin

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