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Study: Women are unhealthier than ever…

December 13, 2010


We’re drinking more, gaining weight, catching STDs, and ignoring routine screenings. We’re quitting smoking and getting mammograms—which is great, but still, instead of getting healthier, women in America are facing massive health-related setbacks, according to data from the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University.

In “Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card,” this year’s report showed that more women are obese, diabetic, and suffering from hypertension than they were in 2007, when the last report card was released. But that’s not all: More women are testing positive for chlamydia (which can lead to infertility), fewer are being checked for ovarian cancer, and more are admitting that they’ve had five or more drinks in one go within the last month.

“The takeaway message is that we’re really not where we should be,” Dr. Michelle Berlin, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine and associate director of the university’s Center for Women’s Health told the New York Times. “We’ve had 10 years of doing this report card, and you would hope the needle would have moved more than it has.”

The 2010 report card grades all 50 states and Washington, D.C., on 26 different health indicators and general assessments on 68 health-related state policies. Grades remained the same or fell on all indicators except three: the percentages of women having colorectal screenings, getting mammograms, and going to the dentist.

Of the 68 policies reviewed, only two goals were met by all states: Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment, and participation in the food stamp program. “No state meets the policy goal of passing ‘clinic access’ legislation that adequately protects women and health care providers from violence and harassment at reproductive health centers,” the report pointed out.

Even the states that were ranked highest on health status—Vermont and Massachusetts—still only received a “Satisfactory Minus,” and they were the only states to do so; no state received a “Satisfactory.” The middle of the pack—Florida, Kansas, and Alaska—received an “Unsatisfactory”; Louisiana and Mississippi were the lowest ranking and they, along with nine other states and Washington, D.C., received a failing grade. (Click here to see where your state ranks.)

“Overall, the nation is still so far from the Healthy People and related goals that it receives a grade of ‘Unsatisfactory’,” the report said. “In none do women enjoy overall satisfactory health status.”

With so much information out there, how are women still failing to take better care of themselves? Part of the problem, the report points out, is that nearly 1 in 5 women between the ages of 18 and 64 are uninsured, and it’s difficult to get adequate care without health insurance. Also, 12 percent of women in the US live in a “medically underserved area,” which means that even with health insurance, access to primary care physicians can be scarce.

“The good news is that when the nation rallies around a health problem with state and federal policies and programs as well as public attention, we can achieve real progress,” Judy Waxman, NWLC Vice President for Health and Reproductive Rights, said in a press release on the report. “Unfortunately, we have much more work to do in many areas of women’s health.”


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