Women urged to see health as priority


Women who juggle families, full-time jobs and volunteer work must make their own health a priority or all aspects of their life will suffer, Frances Hughes Glendening told several hundred people at the Maryland Women's Expo on Health yesterday.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening's wife -- a lawyer, the mother of a teen-ager and a volunteer -- delivered welcoming remarks at the daylong event at Towson State University sponsored by the state Commission on Women's Health.

"My day is filled to the brim and then some," she said. "I was a Type A personality -- a perfectionist. I had to make choices about my life."

The free expo, the first sponsored by the 2-year-old commission, was designed to give women information about those choices. Organizers sought to reach women, especially those with limited access to health care information, to educate them about health, lifestyle and mental health issues. The emphasis was on prevention.

Those attending could choose from 45 workshops and 60 exhibits on topics such as cancer, osteoporosis, caring for aging parents, sexual assault and being parents. Between 400 and 500 people had attended the event by mid-afternoon, said Jeannette Duerr, spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Mrs. Glendening, 44, executive assistant and chief legislative and policy adviser to the U.S. Federal Election Commission chairman, said she was forced to evaluate her priorities about 12 years ago when stress took over her life.

She was working full time, attending law school and caring for her family when her mother became ill with bone marrow cancer and a younger brother was struggling with mental illness.

"I was totally overwhelmed," Mrs. Glendening said.

She said she knew that if she did not ease up she would become sick and her whole family would suffer. "I identified my values and personal priorities," she said.

She sacrificed straight A's in law school, devoted less time to her career and spent more time with her mother and the rest of her family.

Today, with duties as Maryland's first lady added to her schedule, she said she must plan time for exercise, fun and family.

"My husband often refers to me, affectionately of course, as a health Nazi," she said.

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