This month we speak with Linda Rhodes, Executive Director of The Women’s Fund for Health Education and Resiliency. The Women’s Fund serves close to 12,000 women and adolescent girls and distributes 9,913 publications each year. Using her strength in bringing individuals and teams together, Rhodes has been able to collaborate with community partners to provide The Women’s Fund programing and resources free of charge to the communities with limited access to health information. The Women’s Fund has pivoted all programing online and at no cost in order to continue serving the community and providing tools needed to be resilient and healthy during the pandemic.
Tell us more about the Women’s Health Fund and your role there.
The Women’s Fund is a nonprofit dedicated to providing Houston-area women and girls with the tools they need to be advocates for their health. For 41 years, The Women’s Fund has been educating girls and women through classes, workshops, lectures and publications. Our programs focus on seven of the eight dimensions of health and wellness as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), which includes: emotional, intellectual, physical, environmental, financial, occupational, and social.
It’s a holistic approach to good health and wellness. You cannot achieve optimal physical and mental health if you are in an unhealthy relationship, struggling with your finances, or having problems managing or coping with stress.
Our program participants learn resiliency skills to increase self-efficacy, decision-making, goal setting, communication and resourcefulness to be their own health advocates and ensure positive health outcomes for individuals and communities.
Resiliency is not a trait that we are inherently born with, however, it is a skill that can be learned and developed. Resiliency is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats, or significant source of stress, such a family and relationship problems, health issues, and financial stressors. Our focus on resiliency is what sets us apart from other health education organizations.
My role as Executive Director of The Women’s Fund encompasses all aspects of the organization from fundraising and finance to programs and publications. On any given day I will have worked with accountants, our PR firm, board members, community partners and staff. Or, possibly been the face of the organization with the media or donors. I consider myself a generalist since I touch every aspect of the business fluidly.
What do you think is the one biggest challenge today for women? For young women?
Prioritizing our physical, mental and emotional health and well-being! For women in particular, prioritizing our health is a huge challenge. Most women, including me, take care of everyone else in the family first. Then when they find the time (which is almost never), schedule that well-woman check-up. It is vital that we make our health a priority. Because when a health issue develops, it becomes much more difficult to take care of those we love.
Additionally, it is hard to prioritize health care when the financial impact is costly. Or if you do not have access to health care. More than 25% of residents in Harris County are uninsured and of those, the majority are low-income, ethnic minority and female. While there are multiple health care resources available for adolescents under the age of 18, resources for adults are not as readily available. This leads me to the second part of my response which applies to both women and girls, the health information gap.
We need to ensure we have accurate information regarding our physical, mental and emotional health regardless of our socio-economic status.With the many different platforms including “Dr. Google” and the variety of social media sites, information is more accessible than ever. However, we all need to ensure that the information we use to make decisions regarding any factor of our life is from a credible source. We need to ask ourselves is this fake news? Also, we should look for additional research from trusted organizations such as Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Office on Women’s Health (OWH), World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health (NIH).
What is your favorite part of your job at the Women’s Fund?
The individuals I have the pleasure of interfacing with whether it be our staff, community partners, volunteers, donors or board members. I am a people person and love cultivating and stewarding those relationships.
How has the pandemic changed the services offered at the Women’s Fund of Health Education and Resillency?
We are still providing the services we have in the past. However in a different format. Whether it is our programs and lectures or our special events, they are on a virtual platform. I had to pivot quickly to get our women’s sessions online within two weeks of closing our offices. And then began adding new presentations monthly. Now, we are currently offering our adolescent girls “What About Me?” classes weekly and have a monthly presentation in Spanish for women. All open to the public and at no cost.
Some of our community partners who did not have a disruption in their services moved forward with scheduled classes using our virtual format beginning in April. During August we will be adding additional classes each week for both women and girls.
We also have a plan in place for the upcoming school year to provide our interactive “What About Me?” and Power Up the H.E.A.T classes virtually. I believe one positive long-term outcome from this pandemic for our organization is a new and efficient method of providing services in a virtual platform moving forward, which ultimately opens new doors and expands our footprint in the community.
What do you think is the biggest positive outcome of the pandemic for women?
I believe it has been a huge wake-up call for all of us. As a voluntary health organization, we made the call to close before the statewide closure in March. We then took a step back, slow down and re-evaluate. Which in turn forced us to change patterns and behaviors both professionally and personally. Change is always intimidating. However with change comes growth. Personally, I realized what a fast pace at which I was operating. I felt like the Energizer Bunny! This time working remotely has allowed me to slow down and enjoy hobbies and family. For those of us who are more resilient, this pandemic as helped us refocus our energies. To become more mindful and embrace change because with the pandemic life is changing daily. From what I have heard from others in my circle, they are having similar experiences.
As a native Houstonian, what is your favorite part about living in our beautiful city?
I love the diversity of our city, not just the many ethnicities who call Houston home, but the diversity in our culture, theater and museum districts, and cuisine offerings as well as the relatively mild climate if you don’t count our Houston summers!
Why do you think Houston is a great place to raise a family?
While we are the 4th largest city in the nation, I feel Houston offers affordable housing. Plenty of family-focused activities. And for the most part, and an exceptional public education system.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Houston?
The sheer size of the Houston Metro area. When you add up the many suburbs that are considered a part of Houston, you are looking at 10,062 square miles! Most visitors do not fully comprehend how spread out city/community is.
As a busy executive, juggling the demands of life and career, what are some of the ways you relieve stress?
I practice one of the things we at The Women’s Fund advocate with participants, SELF CARE. My personal methods are regular massages, reading every day, finding new recipes, playing golf, swimming. Or if the mood strikes, not doing anything at all! In fact, every Saturday morning you will find me in bed with a book, my Cocker Spaniel Cooper and coffee until noon. But most importantly with NO GUILT.
What is one thing that you cannot live without?
My husband, Dusty, but dessert is a close second!
A native Houstonian, Linda Rhodes has been married for 20 years and enjoys playing golf, reading, painting and traveling. At home, her time is spent with her husband, grandchildren and their Cocker Spaniel named Cooper.
For more information on the Women’s Fund http://www.thewomensfund.org