Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

Is contraception soon to be free for minors in France?

In Health, Society on February 18, 2012 at 3:22 pm

Image from liberation.fr

A report entitled “Let’s talk to our teens about sex? Preventing unplanned pregnancies in young girls.” (Et si on parlait de sexe à nos ados ? Pour éviter les grossesses non prévues chez les jeunes filles) was presented to the French Secretary of State for Young People on the 16th of February, this week.

The report, conducted by one of France’s foremost gynaecologists Israël Nisand, recommends that the government and pharmaceutical companies work together to provide free and anonymous contraception for young girls in France. The proposal advocates the anonymity of access to contraception because, at present, contraception for minors is only available through the health insurance of parents and guardians. The professionals who have produced the report hope that access to free and anonymous contraception would reduce the number of abortions undertaken by young girls.

This position on birth control, although supported by politicians such as the current Secretary of State for Young People, Jeanette Bougrab, has met opposition from others, most notably Nora Berra the Secretary of State for Health. Ms. Berra, in 2011, stated her preference for free and anonymous access to contraception to remain available only in family planning centres. Furthermore, the plans that were blocked in 2011 were mainly aimed at women between the ages of 20 and 30, not at teenage girls.

Currently there are some regional systems in place that allow teenagers in France access to one free medical consultation and free contraception without the involvement of their parents. It is noted by infirmiers.com that the regional system of “Pass Contraception” is mainly supported by the left politically.

In 2011 Ms. Berra, part of the right-wing UMP (Also the party of current French President Nicholas Sarkozy), commented, “I want it remembered that the pill is a drug (…) I don’t want it to be suggested that this is a small pill  that can be taken easily without any risks.” (Je veux rappeler que la pilule est un médicament (…) je ne veux pas laisser penser que c’est une petite pilule sans risque qu’on peut prendre facilement). In the same article she also urges people not to under-estimate the “potential toxicity” (toxicité potentielle) of the contraceptive pill, making reference to the risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in some women who take the pill.

For those with a feminist perspective at egalite-infos.fr, however, it is hoped that “this new report does not go unheard, and that the future government is able to broaden its horizons beyond reading damning findings.” (Espérons que ce nouveau rapport ne reste pas lettre morte. Et que le futur gouvernement se donne les moyens de ne pas se cantonner à la lecture d’accablants constats.)

For more information read the egalite-infos.fr article here, the Le Monde article here and the Libération article here (All in French, unfortunately!).   


French Women Twice as Likely to Attempt Suicide than French Men

In Health, Society on December 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

It was reported last week that in a survey of 27,000 French people aged 15-85, 5.5% admitted to already having attempted suicide at some point in their lives. The report was published by the Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire [BEH] (Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin), which also added that more than 10,400 people die from committing suicide every year in France. It was also revealed that French women were twice as likely as French men to attempt suicide and the most likely period for women to attempt suicide was between 15-19. So why is it that French women in particular account for twice as many suicide attempts than French men?

TF1 accounts for the disproportionately high numbers of women attempting suicide by estimating that men are more likely to commit suicide using more violent methods than women (which are therefore more ‘successful’). In 2009, of the more than 10,400 deaths by suicide in France, 75% were men and only 25% were women. Thus, women are more likely to survive suicide attempts, which is why the survey may have recorded a disproportionately high percent of female suicide attempts.

However, when looking at mental health statistics, specifically depression rates, there seems to be correlation between suicide rates. A paper published by l’INSEE revealed that in 2003, among French people in the île-de-France, women were twice as likely as men to be depressed. The paper also mentions that comparing profession, age, family and professional situations between mean and women like-for-like, women were still twice as likely as men to be seriously depressed.

No links are made in the press between mental health, specifically depression rates and suicide attempt rates. Furthermore, there is no suggestion of how to prevent more suicide attempts. Dr. Jean-Louis Terra, in TF1, describes the findings as “one more piece of the puzzle which aims to better understand this daily shattering catastrophe.”  (une pièce de plus au puzzle qui vise à mieux connaître cette catastrophe en miettes et quotidienne). There is more research needed to link cause and effect if France is to prevent more suicides and thoroughly explain the disproportionate numbers of women affected.

For more information on the statistics see the INSEE report here, the TF1 article here and the Liberation article here

30,000 Faulty Breast Implants and the French ‘Bimbo’ Myth

In Health, Society on December 17, 2011 at 10:29 am

A PIP Prosthesis. Image from L'Express.

On Wednesday it was widely reported that eight cases of cancer had been linked to a faulty breast implant scandal that has seen 30,000 French women affected. However, the cancer cases and the faulty implants have no proven medical connection. The faulty implants were made of industrial grade silicone, which is used in the electronics industry, rather than the medical grade silicone which is normally used in cosmetic surgery.

The scandal sparked protests in Paris on Wednesday, in front of the Ministry of Health. The protest also highlighted the long-standing presumption in France that women who have breast augmentations are “bimbos”. An article in L’Express, entitled “PIP prostheses: ordinary women, not bimbos” (Prothèse PIP: des femmes ordinaires, pas de bimbos), comments on the absence of blonde women in the crowd of protesters. It’s hard to tell if this reference is ironic or not. The article also tells us that “They have all undertaken surgery for aesthetic reasons.” (Toutes ont réalisé l’intervention chirurgicale pour des raisons esthétiques), a blanket statement which does little to dispel the “bimbo” myth.

The Guardian interviews an anonymous protester who had a breast augmentation because she “suffered from depression and mental-health problems linked to body image”. This is a refreshing angle on the coverage, which, so far in the French media, hasn’t properly looked at the profiles of the women who are affected. Despite L’Express’s rather feeble attempt to balance the common, rather patronizing, media image of women who have plastic surgery for purely cosmetic reasons, the French press fails to investigate the reasons why women undertake cosmetic surgery.

For more information see the Guardian article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/dec/14/france-faulty-breast-implant-scandal and L’Express article here (French): http://www.lexpress.fr/actualite/societe/prothese-pip-des-femmes-ordinaires-pas-des-bimbos_1062080.html