National Women’s Health Week kicked off on Mother’s Day and yesterday was National Women’s Checkup Day. These nationwide awareness campaigns happen every year in the month of May to encourage women to schedule their annual well-women visits.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests women set aside time to discuss their health habits, family history and goals for optimal health at their annual well-women visit. During these visits, women receive preventative care and necessary screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, cervical cancer and many other conditions.

People often confuse the well-woman exam as just a pap smear—but it is truly our opportunity as women to assess our whole health status. Well-women visits help identify diseases such as cervical precancers early, when they are easier to treat. They allow providers to teach preventative strategies that empower women to reduce their risk for illness. And now, under the Affordable Care Act, most health plans allow women to receive these services without cost.

The goal of National Women’s Health Week is to encourage women, in their busyness, to find time to schedule screenings for potentially life threatening, but mostly preventable diseases.

To participate in National Women’s Health Week, women are asked to make a well-women appointment with their provider, learn which screenings they need during each phase of life, urge others to participate and share information on women’s health through social media.