Science & Women's Resources

March 1, 2005
Despite the Iraqi conflict, higher oil prices, and an uncertain economy, one sector of the economy has been thriving in the United States - women-owned businesses.

Women-Owned Businesses Help Drive the Economy

Despite the Iraqi conflict, higher oil prices, and an uncertain economy, one sector of the economy has been thriving in the United States - women-owned businesses. The Center for Women’s Business Research reported that 10.6 million firms are among businesses with at least 50 percent ownership by women. Nearly half of all privately held companies in the United States are owned by women, up from 7 percent in the 1970s. Women-owned businesses employ 19.1 million people, generating at least $2.5 trillion in sales. Growth among women-owned companies in the top 50 metro areas was nearly twice the 9 percent growth experienced by the average company, with employment growing by 24 percent. Revenue growth at women-owned firms was higher by 40.9 percent, compared to 32.8 percent for all businesses.

According to the release from Merrill Lynch Business Financial Services, it’s not just the numbers that count. Women business owners tend to emphasize relationship building and fact finding. Their style tends to be more warm and personal than men, who talk to their bankers and employees in more empirical, numerical terms. Women are more likely to consult with experts, employees and fellow business owners. This openness allows for more well-informed decision-making in affecting their business strategies. Despite this, women are still less likely than men to seek traditional bank financing for their start-up businesses. They may utilize credit cards, second mortgages or retirement funds.

Gaps in Understanding Health Information Among Patients

At least 90 million people don’t understand basic health information, according to the Surgeon General of the United States. You’ve had the experience that some patients are confused about your brochures, post-operative instructions, and how to take their medications, What can you do besides be frustrated? Assess your patient communications with your patients. Be curious.

At least two-thirds of American adults over age 60 have low health literacy, according to the 1993 National Adult Literacy Study. Of those, more than half read below a fifth grade level. Problems reading and understanding health-related information are more likely to disproportionately impact older people, non-whites, immigrants, and people with low incomes.

Lack of health literacy may also impact the accuracy of understanding about your office health history form. Cultural/racial/ethnic/language and health literacy may affect your patients’ ability to answer this correctly. In addition, relatives’ health history may not always be known by patients. In a Fall 2003 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, 97 percent of respondents felt knowledge of family health history was either somewhat important or very important. However, only 31 percent had ever collected health information from their relatives. A new Web-based tool is available that can facilitate the collection and organization of family history. It is available in English and Spanish at

Higher education alone may not impact understanding of health information. There can be problems understanding health issues and medical terminology to well-educated patients. Health literacy is separate from educational level, so be sure and assess even your well-educated patients about their understanding of issues.

Why is health literacy important? Mainly, because there is a link between poor health literacy and follow-up care, especially for chronic illnesses. At least 75 percent of adults with a chronic disease of more than six months had low health literacy skills, with folks knowing less about their illness or its symptoms. For example, diabetics with poor reading and writing skills had more problems controlling their sugar levels than others with higher literacy. People with poor literacy skills are also less likely to take care of themselves or get proper care. Make sure your health information is understood by your patients.

Cultural dimensions are specific attributes that provide a reference point for comparing and contrasting cultures. Examples of cultural dimensions include how the culture views time, how they tolerate risk or uncertainty, the distance between hierarchical powers, and work ethic. Learning about cultural dimensions creates a solid framework to help us navigate through health communication with patients.

Dental Office Could Be Sentinel For New Flu Strains

Dental office appointment cancellations, along with school closings and increased visits to emergency rooms, could be a sentinel system for alert about new flu strains. Dental personnel should be alert to a flurry of appointment cancellations that could mean a new strain of flu. Be prepared to contact your local public health agencies for reporting or clarification about such an event.

Flu season lasts from November to May, peaking during January through March. Flu strains vary from one year to another. About 5 to 20 percent of people will get the flu this season, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu. About 36,000 people die from the flu. Those most susceptible to complications of flu are older people, infants, and young children and those with compromised health conditions or pregnancy. Flu spreads by respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing, passed from one person to another, or by fomites which are touched and then taken to the mouth and nose.

Recommendation on Supplements to Prevent Caries in Pre-School Children

In May 2004, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), an independent medical panel of experts who review evidence-based literature, found fair scientific evidence that “primary care providers prescribe oral fluoride supplements at currently recommended doses to their patients >6 months of age whose primary source of water is deficient in fluoride.” Let your physician colleagues know about this important recommendation at Fluoride supplements are addressed in a new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. “Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk” discusses fluoride and the need for early dental referral. (Pediatrics Feb 2005: 115(2);496-506.

Oral Malodor

Oral malodor has been noted by many dentists among their patient populations. Malodor may not be linked to gingivitis, periodontitis, or oral plaque. Rather, oral malodor, independent of mouth breathing or systemic disease, may be indicative of oral flora proliferation. Moreover, volatile sulfur compounds may be linked to malodor. A recent article suggests the use of tongue scrapers to remove oral flora, and guidelines for clinical studies on oral malodor products are available.

Effective malodor products include those that submit evidence that Phase III clinical studies reduce malodor by at least one level in the organoleptic intensity rating among 80 percent of patients, followed for at least three weeks. Prophylaxis should have occurred at least one week in advance of the clinical study. So, while oral malodor products abound, be cautious about recommendations for oral malodor products to patients.

Evidence suggests that odorific bacteria may abound in patients with oral malodor. Tune into future evidence-based dentistry to determine if probiotic oral bacteria will have any impact on oral malodor. (Pedrazzi V, et al. Tongue-cleaning methods: a comparative clinical trial employing a toothbrush and a tongue scraper. J. Periodontol. 2004; 75(7): 1009-12.; ADA Council on Scientific Affairs. Oral Malodor. JADA. 2003; 134(2):209-214.; Kazor CE, et al. Diversity of bacterial populations on the tongue dorsa of patients with halitosis and healthy patients. J Clin Microbiol. 2003 Feb;41(2):558-63.)

For Patients Only

The Society for Women’s Health Research suggests posting the following information for the benefit of patients:

If you don’t understand something our staff says, ask. If you don’t speak the same language as your doctor, ask for a translator.

If you have any questions, ask them right away.

Don’t leave the office unless you have full understanding of the advice or instructions given to you.

If necessary, ask your dentist or dental hygienist or dental assistant to slow down and explain things clearly. Ask if there are any diagrams or pictures available or if videos or audios are available.

Take someone with you who can help explain things if you are having trouble.

Key Facts On Flu

For more information on ways that you and your patients can avoid flu, go to Here are some of the facts:

Avoid close contact - Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Stay home when you are sick - If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness. Please call in advance to reschedule your dental appointment, if you believe that you have the flu.

Cover your mouth and nose - Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

Clean your hands - Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth - Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

With plenty of time left in the flu season and ample vaccine supplies now, encourage your patients at risk of complications of flu, especially those over aged 60, those with immunocompromised systems and small children under 5, to receive flu vaccine this flu season


To the winners of the 2004 Excellence in Women’s Health Research Journalism Awards - presented by the Society for Women’s Health Research in Chicago. The awards honored journalists in the categories of print, television, radio and Internet media for exceptional, timely and accurate coverage of sex-differences health research. Awards went to journalists Rachael Combe, Elle Magazine; Serena Gordon,; Lisa Nainggolan,; Judy Peres, Chicago Tribune; Thomas Shives, M.D., KROC Radio; and Susan Wagner, 20/20 ABC News.