Report Finds Racial Disparities In Women's Health Benchmarks

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Women's health care in the U.S. is unsatisfactory overall and thereare racial disparities for certain benchmarks, such as having healthinsurance and receiving prenatal care, according to a report card onthe state of women's health released Wednesday by the National Women's Law Center and the Oregon Health and Science University, CQ HealthBeat reports.

Thereport card, titled "Making the Grade on Women's Health: A National andState-by-State Report Card," measured women's health in all 50 statesand Washington, D.C., by using 27 health benchmarks designated by HHS' Healthy People 2010 campaign.

Accordingto the report, American Indians and Alaska Native women were twice aslikely as white women to be uninsured. Among white women, 16.9% wereuninsured, compared with 22.7% of black women and 37.8% of Hispanicwomen, according to the report. The percentage of uninsured womenincreased by 1.7% since 2004, according to the report.

Thereport found 85.7% of white women received prenatal care, compared with70.8% of American Indians, 75.9% of blacks and 77.5% of Hispanics.According to the report, the percentage of women nationwide whoreceived prenatal care increased by 5% since 2004 but is stillunsatisfactory. The report found that white women have an infantmortality rate of 5.7 deaths for every 1,000 live births, compared with13.5 deaths per 1,000 live births for blacks and 5.6 per 1,000 livebirths for Hispanics. The overall infant mortality rate has remainedthe same since 2004 (Bartolf, CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).

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According to the report, the U.S. overall fails to meet 12 of the 27 benchmarks, up from nine in 2004 (CQ HealthBeat,10/17). Only three of the 27 benchmarks -- women receiving regulardental care, women ages 40 and older receiving mammograms and womenages 50 and older receiving colorectal cancer screening -- were met,Michelle Berlin, an associate professor at OHSU, said.

None ofthe states received a "satisfactory" grade in women's health. Threestates -- Massachusetts, Minnesota and Vermont -- received a grade of"satisfactory minus," a decrease from 2004, when eight states wereconsidered "satisfactory minus." Eleven states and the districtreceived failing grades in women's health status, compared with sixstates in 2004. The 11 states are: Alabama; Arkansas; Indiana;Kentucky; Louisiana; Mississippi, which ranked last; Oklahoma; SouthCarolina; Tennessee; Texas; and West Virginia. The remaining statesreceived "unsatisfactory" grades, Reuters reports (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 10/17).

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"The outlook for women's health is nowhere near approaching thenation's goals for 2010" set by the Healthy People campaign, Berlinsaid, adding, "Failing to meet these goals undermines not only thehealth and well-being of women, but the well-being of our country aswell." Judy Waxman, vice president for health and reproductive rightsfor NWLC, said, "It's nothing to cheer when only a handful of statesare meeting at least half of the policy goals" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).

Waxman called on states to implement policies to improve women's health (Reuters,10/17). "It is evident that our health system needs mending," Waxmansaid, adding, "Lawmakers must take a comprehensive, long-term approachto meeting women's health needs" (CQ HealthBeat, 10/17).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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