Home Be in AFM Women Who Move the Valley Women Who Move the Valley 2009 - Page 10

Promoting Women's Health on the Web
Story by Christine Whitton

After enduring a health scare, Phoenix philanthropist Michelle Robson became an advocate for women's health, vowing not to let another women experience what she finally overcame. Michelle King Robson was a vibrant 30-something when she began experiencing perimenopausal symptoms and her body starting to react in new ways. By her early 40's, a diagnosis led Robson to a controversial hysterectomy.

Due to her lack of understanding prior to her surgery as well as her subsequent struggle for health, Robson now feels compelled to share her story with other women.

"Today I have to take hormone replacement therapy in order to function, and [the therapy] is in need of constant tweaking because of my body changes and my age," Robson says. "I had to learn these things by default." She believes if women have access to complete information on which to base their medical decisions, future health heartache can be alleviated.

In light of her experience, Robson set out to establish Empowher - a Web-based medium that allows other women to ask health questions, share their stories and connect with other women who share their condition or disease. Robson initially geared the recently launched site to six areas (menopause, osteoporosis, heart disease, postpartum depression, premenstrual dysphoric disorder and thyroid disorders) and hoped interactive threads would further the exchange of information. She was correct in those estimations. Currently one of the site's most discussed ailments is ankle fusion, an often overlooked condition. "It is the mission and vision [of Empowher] to touch the lives of every single woman around the world and get them communicating about their health, sharing resources and information with each other," Robson says. After all, you only have so much time with a doctor.

In many cases, women are the chief medical officers of the home, assisting children, husbands and aging parents first and caring for themselves last, if at all. "We need to put ourselves first so we can take care of everyone else," Robson says. Going forward, Robson strives to translate Empowher into both Spanish and French, in hopes of reaching women who are currently underserved.

Currently, more than 162 countries have visited the Empowher site. As her creation reaches more people around the globe, Robson's vision is realized through positive feedback by colleagues and contributors, who find Empowher sheds light on those overcoming the same rare health hurdles she once did.