Get a checkup, save your life.

That’s the philosophy and mission of West Virginia University’s observance of National Women’s Health Week, May 12-20.

Make that more than a week. WVU is extending the traditional weeklong lineup of events to stretch the entire month of May, and the full slate of screenings, community walks and educational programs are designed to stir a little health awareness into a state not known for healthy lifestyles.

That includes National Women’s Check-Up Day on May 15. Women are encouraged to call their healthcare providers for exams and screenings for that day.

�€?Our goal is to improve the health status of West Virginia women,�€? said Elaine Bowen, a WVU Extension Service specialist. The Extension Service is helping stage events with the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center of Excellence in Women’s Health (CoEWH) and other University organizations.

The CoEWH, in fact, is already nationally recognized for its work in women’s health, said Elizabeth Critch Parsons, a project director with the organization.

In 2004, the organization was named one of the top 20 centers in the country for women’s health for its outreach work in West Virginia’s rural communities.

Outreach means awareness, she said. And awareness means understanding and action.

Heart disease is the number one killer of American women, she said, citing numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That’s followed by lung cancer, breast cancer, strokes and diabetes.

Turning those trends is easier than one might think, she said.

�€?When women take the step to improve their health,�€? she said, �€?the results can be significant.�€? 1-800-994-WOMAN.