CVS Health is “Here for Women” as the Company Supports More Equitable Health care

Gender inequities persist in the health care industry, from the price of women’s products to access to services addressing leading medical issues causing women’s deaths. CVS Health® decided to take action, starting with developing and implementing the HERe for Women initiative. - BY Betty Armstrong

CVS Health Corporation (CVS Health) is committed to helping everyone have a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health. Health equity plays a large role in that goal, and not just as a talking point. For CVS Health, action always follows the words, which is what the HERe for Women initiative is really about – putting strategy into action to promote health equity and health care accessibility for women.

The HERe for Women initiative addresses issues like the inequitable “pink tax” on women’s health-related supplies, the need for more access to cardiovascular screening, and the difficulty so many young women have affording period products. These are potentially life-altering issues, and CVS Health has chosen to tackle them in its initiative for women and girls. Utilizing various approaches, CVS Health is bringing the conversation on women’s health equity to national attention while offering tangible ways to make a difference in women’s lives.

MinuteClinic® Makes Walking in for Health Care Screening Easy

There are three main girl and women-specific areas that the HERe for Women initiative addresses. One is encouraging heart health screenings. The statistics demonstrate the great need. Almost 45% of women aged 20 and older have some form of cardiovascular disease, with Black women nearly 1.5 times as likely to suffer a first stroke as white women. Compared to men, women have an increased risk of developing heart failure or dying within five years of a severe heart attack, yet many people remain unaware that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. This fact is all the more tragic because, in many cases, cardiovascular disease-related deaths can be prevented through health screenings and lifestyle changes.

CVS Health wants to change the statistics in a positive way. To do this, CVS Health MinuteClinic locations nationwide have added specific heart health screenings for women to their long list of services for women’s health. This includes basic heart health screenings and monitoring for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and congestive heart failure, along with treatments for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This is in addition to the virtual and in-person care for women’s issues that includes osteoporosis, sleep disorders, urinary tract infections, menopause symptoms, PMS treatments, family planning, and sexually transmitted infections, all available from Board-certified health care providers.

It is easy to locate the nearest MinuteClinic with an online search on the CVS Health website under the tab “Women’s Health Care.” Once a MinuteClinic is located based on zip code, an appointment can be made for an in-person visit or a virtual conference. However, these are also walk-in clinics during open hours. CVS Health wants to make it as easy as possible for women to meet with a health care provider by accommodating different preferences, needs, and opportunities.

Tackling Pricing Inequities

A second focus area of the HERe for Women initiative is pricing inequities between women’s and men’s health and maintenance products. The additional amount charged for women’s products is dubbed the “pink tax,” though it is not a true tax. It is a term referring to the fact that women tend to pay higher prices than men for the same items, like razors, and are paying unnecessarily high prices for period products.

To bring more equity to product prices and tackle the pink tax, CVS Health reduced the price of certain CVS Health-brand period products by 25 percent and is covering the sales tax on the products in 12 states. Though hard to believe, some states tax feminine hygiene products as luxury items. A few states have no tax, but most do, so CVS Health chose to include this effort in its HERe for Women initiative. The sales tax relief applies to CVS Health brand tampons, feminine pads, liners and cups. The lowered prices also apply to dozens of products designed for women, like supplements and skin care products.

CVS Health is working to get the pink tax eliminated on a nationwide basis. At the same time, the company is bringing national attention to the existence of the pink tax.

Addressing Period Poverty

A third priority is addressing period poverty. Sadly, 23% of students struggle to afford period products, a phenomenon known as period poverty. As a result, they cannot go to work or school or participate in many life activities. Period poverty is about more than just lacking supplies. It impacts women and girls' physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. As the Alliance for Period Supplies says, a period without adequate supplies is a setback because it dictates what a person can do and where the person can go.

The HERe for Women initiative set a goal of donating one million period products to reduce period poverty. The goal was reached in one month by collaborating with Feeding America. CVS Health is also helping young girls maneuver through a crucial physical change – the first period. The company developed an inexpensive First Period Box that helps prepare girls for their first period by sharing information on the physical and mental effects of the menstrual cycle and on using period products. The First Period Box contains various items, including menstrual cycle supplies, blemish patches and a tracking journal. An online booklet called A Girls Guide to Puberty and Periods can be read online or downloaded.

Getting “Really Heard” Not as Hard Thanks to CVS HEALTH

At each stage of the initiative, CVS Health is building in advocacy and access for women. Women have long dealt with a health care system that caters to men. This has made them feel their needs are not taken seriously. There has also been a lack of concern about mental health and the relationship that girls have with beauty.

The CVS Health HERe for Women initiative aims to bring change to the health care system by offering easier access to health care providers who listen and provide health screenings. Women can access providers in person or virtually. The providers consult with women of all ages, too, from those needing birth control advice to women in pre- and post-menopause life stages to women managing the aging process.

The HERe for Women initiative means women can buy products at CVS Health stores that are not arbitrarily price increased just because they are for women. Girls can find menstrual cycle information that some parents may find challenging to discuss. Period poverty is being reduced, improving the lives of millions of women and girls.

All Women and Girls are Beautiful

The CVS Health HERe for Women initiative is embedded in the broader CVS Health system. For example, one of the ways CVS Health promotes the idea that every girl and woman is beautiful is by never filtering images used online or in marketing materials. This addresses self-image issues and supports the CVS Health culture of diversity and inclusion, core values that drive everything it does. HERe for Women addresses the inner and outer aspects of women and girls, helping them live healthy lives while appreciating each person’s natural beauty. Bringing change to a large, complex health care system is not easy, but CVS Health is proving it is possible.