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Comprehensive Report On Women's Health Released

America's health care policies are failing women. That's according to the findings of one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on women's health.

A group of women's health advocates held a news conference this morning in Washington, DC, to release "Making the Grade on Women's Health", a national state by state report card assessing women's health in this country. Each state was graded on 32 health status indicators and 32 health policy indicators. The nation earned an overall grade of "unsatisfactory."

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center in Washington D.C., a non-profit organization working to expand opportunities and eliminate barriers for woman and their families, with a major emphasis on women's health.

She is a co-author of the study, and she tells us which state ranks the best and the worst. She also talks about why and what policy makers can do to improve women's health. The bottom line, both the state and federal governments could be doing much more to ensure that women receive better health care.

This study, Making the Grade on Woman's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card, is being hailed as the most comprehensive women's health study ever to grade and rank each state and evaluate federal progress. It looked at women’s health and well-being broadly, exploring: access to health care services; wellness and prevention; key health conditions, diseases and causes of death; and living in a healthy community. It examined 32 status indicators and 32 policy indicators that address a range of women’s health issues, including access to health insurance and prescription drug coverage, long-term care, reproductive health and mental health.

It was a multi-year collaboration, the report was developed by: the National Women’s Law Center; FOCUS on Health and Leadership for Women at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine; and The Lewin Group.

Interview with Marcia Greenberger

The country has to do a better job at giving women access to health care. Hawaii ranks first overall and that's because only 7.5% of women were uninsured while in Texas, which ranked last in that category, 28% of women are without health insurance.


States need to pay attention to the health conditions women suffer from. The greatest killer of women is heart disease. And, there are huge gaps between states. For example, in Minnesota, heart disease kills 65 out of every 100,000 women and in Mississippi, 141 out of 100,000 die from heart disease.

All states need to do a better job at preventive health care. Right now, state and the federal government isn't doing enough. We need better screenings, more help in stopping women from smoking. Better health has to be part of everyday life.

On the local level, communities need to do a better job as well. They can help educate women. And, we should note that high school completion and poverty rates are very closely tied together and both are very important to women's health. If you look at it in practical terms, women are the families' gatekeepers when it comes to health care, and they need to be informed and to have the access to health insurance.

I didn't see any big surprises in the research. We haven't stepped up the plate as a nation. We need to do more research, make a better investment in health insurance, provide more preventive care and invest in anti-smoking programs.

This is a political year, and women should demand more. The most important thing women should know is that they need to speak out. They need to know what state and national policy makers stand on health issues. They should go to local town meetings and forums and be heard.

Why Is the Grade Unsatisfactory?

The reason is that we haven't made the investment. We haven't invested enough in health research, in public education, in screening programs. It's a public policy issue and there are major holes in women's health coverage.

What message should women send policy makers? They want to hit them at every level. This is an election year. Look at the policies of candidates. They all talk about the importance of the "women's" votes. We should stand up and be counted.

Why is a state like Hawaii ranked first? It has a strong health policy in place regarding insurance. Residents get better screenings, and they have a better lung cancer rate, and they have better longevity. All these things work together but they still have problems.

There are still major differences between states, and even the best states don't meet all the preventive health measures that are in place and were set ten years ago. In Texas, one in four women don't have health insurance.

Many states have good programs that could be modeled. We highlighted some innovative programs in the study. There are some great programs on preventing smoking.

What's the solution? It's going to take a real concerted effort to improve women's health care. Women have been overlooked for a long time. We need to do more research on women. Until recently women were not included in major health studies. That's changing now, but it needs to be addressed. What's good for men isn't always good for women. Studies on prescription drugs and proper dosages need to be expanded. And, we need more research on heart disease, the biggest killer of women. And, we have miles to go on collecting data on women of different backgrounds and races.

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