Fell heads women's commission

October 27, 1997


Staff Writer

A concern for women's health issues prompted Hagerstown resident Joan Fell to apply for a seat on the Washington County Commission for Women two and a half years ago.

Now president of the 15-member commission, Fell is counting on projects dealing with two very different women's health issues to bond new and old commission members to each other and a common purpose.

Fell, 46, became president of the state-mandated women's advocacy group in July.

The group is made up of 14 members appointed by the Washington County Commissioners and a county commission liaison, this year President Gregory I. Snook.


With seven new members on the commission this year, Fell said she felt it was important for the group to take on a project that all members could work on together.

After a lively meeting in September, commission members voted to undertake both a long-term project and a shorter-term project, she said.

The long-term project - looking at barriers to health for older women in county - will start with interviews of more than 300 women age 65 and older, Fell said.

The interviews will be conducted throughout the county by nursing students at Hagerstown Junior College and commission members, she said.

The goal will be to get as diverse a sampling as possible in order to find out what's keeping older Washington County women from getting adequate health care, Fell said.

Through her experiences as executive director for Y-ME of the Cumberland Valley, she said she knows that lack of insurance keeps many older from getting the care they should.

It will be interesting to see what other barriers there are, Fell said.

The information will be shared with the county commissioners, the health care community and interested non-profit organizations in hopes they can tackle the barriers and improve things for local women, she said.

The commission is also working on a shorter-term project looking at the accessibility adoption as an option for pregnant young women, Fell said.

The idea was suggested by commission member Patsy Ardinger, a nurse practitioner with the Washington County Health Department, who became curious about how much of a choice adoption is for the county's pregnant teenagers, she said.

Along with a new president, the board gained more diversity this summer with the addition of three black members, Carolyn Brooks, Carolyn Moore and Johnetta Neal, Fell said. She said the board hasn't had any minority members in the recent past.

As principal of Cascade Elementary School, Neal also brings a valuable geographical perspective to the commission, she said.

Overall, the variety of the commission's membership has proven an asset in trying to address the plethora of women's issues in the county, Fell said.

"The composition of the women is very interesting because they all have very different backgrounds, very diverse perspectives of what's going on in the county," she said.

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