Collaboration With CVS Health Elevates Menstruation Education for Girls
Last year, Marni Sommer and colleagues in the Columbia Mailman School GATE (Gender, Adolescent Transitions, and Environment) Program published A Girl’s Guide to Puberty and Periods. This October, CVS Health is making portions of the book available for free on its online Wellness Zone.
Sommer, professor of sociomedical sciences, is a world-renowned authority on menstruation education and menstrual equity who has published puberty books around the world, with over two million copies disseminated across 10 countries. She says she is collaborating with CVS Health to boost the availability of early-period education for young girls and their parents. “Girls deserve to be educated about menstruation just the same as other health topics. And education needs to happen earlier, before girls actually get their period, so they don’t feel afraid when it happens for the first time, and so they feel confident about asking for support if needed,” she says. “I applaud CVS Health for spotlighting this crucial issue. This is a terrific opportunity to help educate and prepare young girls for their first period.”
Visitors to the CVS Health Wellness Zone can find fun and engaging information from the book, including practical information on caring for your period—with answers to questions like why some girls get cramps and others don’t and how to travel comfortably with your period. The site also features the book’s first period stories, as told in the words of girls from different cultural backgrounds and communities across the United States. Funding for the book came from Sid and Helaine Lerner and Mary Lake Polan. More information is available at AGirlsGuide.org. (Read a Q&A with the book’s authors.)
More than one in three Americans say they were not taught enough about menstruation in school. Research shows that menstrual education has tangible benefits for girls by reducing unwanted outcomes like disrupted participation in school and sports and feelings of embarrassment and anxiety.
Promoting the importance of menstrual health education is an extension of CVS Health’s bold actions to protect menstrual equity. Last year, the company reduced the cost of its store brand period products by more than 25 percent, is paying the menstrual tax on behalf of customers in states where legally allowed, is helping to eliminate the tax on menstrual products at large, and has expanded MinuteClinic and virtual care menstrual health services. At the one-year anniversary of these efforts, CVS Health has committed to donating two of its branded period products for every one purchased in the month of October, with a goal to donate 1 million period products to those facing period poverty. (Visit CVSHealth.com/womens-health for more details.)
As part of her collaboration with CVS Health, Sommer is participating in a media outreach campaign with Joanne Armstrong, vice president and chief medical officer for women’s health and genomics at CVS Health. In a recent Fortune op-ed, Sommer and Armstrong write: “Companies who sell period products have a responsibility to make menstrual health education and products more accessible. … All companies can reduce the stigma around periods by normalizing the experience and supporting women’s health needs.”