When the African Women's Health Center (AWHC) first
commissioned a study based on the 2000 U.S. Census, they
found that approximately 228,000 women and girls living
in the United States have either undergone or are at risk of
FGM/C. The "at-risk" number reflected a staggering increase
of approximately 35 percent from the 1990 census estimate.
New numbers being released by the Population Reference
Bureau on Feb. 6th, 2015, reveal that 507,000 girls and
women in the United States today have either undergone or
are at risk of FGM/C. These growing numbers demonstrate
that U.S. health providers will be examining more patients
with FGM/C. Though some hospitals and health centers in
the United States have created a culturally and linguistically
competent environment for women with FGM/C, these
still do not meet the needs of this population. More often,
women with FGM/C have received poor-quality care, which
understandably creates an environment of distrust towards
our health care system. Women with FGM/C are not only likely
to experience inappropriate encounters with health providers,
but they are also subject to disparities in care, with lower
rates of mammograms, pap smears, vaccinations, and family
planning services. If medical interpreters are used, evidence-based preventive medicine is more consistently applied.
Dr. Nawal Nour is the director of the Ambulatory Obstetrics Practice at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, founder of the African Women's Health Center, and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School. A board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist, Dr. Nour actively researches the health and policy issues regarding FGM/C and has spoken in numerous academic and national conferences regarding the medical management of women who have undergone this practice.