Women's Health is Getting a Failing Grade

BlogHer Original Post

A new report from the Oregon Health and Science University gives the United States a failing grade in women's health. This is the fifth in a series of reports that began in 2000, and it's a look back at the progress and setbacks we are seeing in women's health today. The only areas that saw improvement were an increase in screening for colorectal cancer and a drop in the number of women smoking cigarettes.

The bad news is that more women are suffering from obesity, diabetes, hypertension and sexually transmitted diseases linked to infertility. And the findings that are getting the most attention are an increase in the dangerous behavior of binge drinking (having 5 or more drinks at one time), and a considerable decline in the percentage of women getting pap smears (the primary test for detecting cervical cancer).

During a complete physical examination vital signs of temperature, pulse and blood pressure are usually measured first.

From the Oregon Health and Science University, U.S. Fails to Meet Women's Health Goals (which were set by the government's Healthy People 2010 Initiative)

Overall, the nation is so far from meeting the Healthy People and related goals that it receives a general grade of “Unsatisfactory.” Of the 26 health indicators that were graded, the country received a “Satisfactory” grade in only three and received a failing grade in half.

Do you want to know the specifics of the state you live in? Here is a link to the state-by-state interactive map for this report card.

A large part of the problem is directly related to the growing numbers of women without health insurance.

  • One in 5 women aged 18 to 64 is uninsured, representing a considerable increase since 2007, the highest rate since the Census Bureau began reporting such data.
  • No state meets the Healthy People 2010 goal of 100 percent of women having health insurance; Massachusetts comes the closest with 95 percent of women insured.
  • The disparities in insurance coverage between White women and women of color are alarming. Nationwide, 37.6 percent of Hispanic women, 32 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native women, and 23.4 percent of Black women do not have health insurance coverage, compared with 13.9 percent of White women.

More from the report on State Policies and Goals for the future:

In addition to health status indicators, the report also assesses 68 health and health-related policies. Of these, only two policy goals were met by all the states: Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer treatment and participation in the Food Stamp Nutrition and Education Program.

Though most states have made only piecemeal progress in adopting policies to improve women’s health, many of the policy goals examined in the Report Card will be realized with the implementation of the new federal health care law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

But can these goals be met with the Affordable Care Act in jeopardy from the new Congress? This is from MPR News:

The report expresses hope that the national Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March, will slowly improve these grades.

There are, however, forces at work that appear determined to block any progress whatsoever on women's health. Note, for example, the cries to repeal national health care reform. And note the cries to "defund" Planned Parenthood being issued by U.S. Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. Their bill, which is waiting in the wings for the new Congress, would deny federal funding for family planning services to any organization that offers abortion care.

There is a lot of information in this latest women's health report card, and sadly, even the few areas that we are seeing some improvement, we are still far below goals. It's not good news for women.

I have my own thoughts on one of the findings. I've been thinking about the possible reason for a drop in women getting Pap smears.

In the last few years there has been a huge push towards encouraging women (and even young girls) to get the HPV vaccine. Although it's simply a vaccine to prevent the human papilloma virus, it has been touted as a "cancer" vaccine (but it's NOT). Let's face it, getting a pap test isn't all sunshine and puppy dogs, they are actually something most of us women dread. So is it really that surprising that when we give a woman a vaccine and tell her it will prevent the same cancer that is detected by a pap smear, she is less likely to follow-up with continued cervical screening? [Yes, I know, women are being told to continue with pap tests, but it's not realistic to assume they will, and I think the findings in this report are just the first signs of the problem.]

It seems like a no-brainer and I've said as much in previous posts on Gardasil and the HPV vaccine. Anyway, what worries me even more than the decline in women getting routine pap screening, is the inevitable outcome of a rise in the incidence of cervical cancer (and cervical cancer deaths). At some point, once the pharmaceutical companies have made their billions scaring women into getting the HPV vaccine, someone is going to put two and two together and realize that since this vaccine hit the market, fewer women are getting pap tests and more women are developing cervical cancer.

What do you think? Are you surprised by the continued decline in women's health in our country? Are you worried it may get even worse with the new congress? Do you think there is a correlation between fewer women getting pap smears and the push towards getting the HPV vaccine? Let us know your thoughts in comments.

Contributing Editor Catherine Morgan
Also at Catherine-Morgan.com

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