Oregon Gets Unsatisfactory Grade in Women's Health

05/05/04    Portland, Ore.

OHSU physician and researcher is the lead author on the national report card

The third report card on women's health is out and the news is not good -- Oregon came in 16th in the nation. Overall Oregon earned an "Unsatisfactory" rating in the 2004 "Making the Grade on Women's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card."

The comprehensive study looks at 27 health status benchmarks such as women without health insurance, women's access to prenatal care, smoking, binge drinking, cancer screenings, stroke deaths, life expectancy and poverty. These benchmarks were developed using the goals for 2010 set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People Initiative. The study will be released Thursday by the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University.

Oregon got an "F" for failing in the following categories: women without health insurance; lack of access to cholesterol screening; stroke death rate; lung cancer death rate; percentage of women with high blood pressure; women in poverty, and the wage gap between men and women.

Oregon earned a "Satisfactory" rating for access to abortion providers; mammogram screening; colorectal screening; leisure-time activities; annual dental visits; coronary deaths; AIDS rate per 100,000 women; Chlamydia rates; maternal and infant mortality rate, and high school completion.

The report gives the nation an overall grade of "Unsatisfactory" for meeting only two benchmarks: percentage of women receiving regular mammograms and the number of dental visits. Minnesota ranks No. 1 and at the bottom of the rankings list is Louisiana.

"We have a long way to go in Oregon before we meet these goals. And now, with health care dollars being even more restricted, we'll have even more trouble meeting them. Using the information in the report card, our policy-makers need to develop strategies to improve the health of Oregon women, not erode it further," said Michelle Berlin, M.D., lead author and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, public health and preventive medicine, and medical informatics and clinical epidemiology in the OHSU School of Medicine. Berlin is also the director of the OHSU Center of Excellence in Women's Health.

"State policy-makers' piecemeal approach to our health care crisis has resulted in a complex and ineffective system that fails to address the health care needs of women," said Judy Waxman, NWLC vice president for health. "Lawmakers need to take a comprehensive, long-term approach to meeting women's health needs and tackle this serious problem that plagues so many families."

In no state do women have satisfactory health status for all indicators which, while based on the Healthy People 2010 goals, take into account that we are still six years away from 2010. All states missed eight benchmarks, primarily in the key areas that are central to their overall health, such as access to health insurance, level of poverty, and the wage gap -- all areas that garnered Oregon an "F".

The report card results are used by policy health planners and women's health advocates nationwide to help in decision making concerning women's access to health care insurance, health care programs and other issues, such as family leave policies. The first two reports cards were issued in 2000 and 2001.

The report card is funded by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation and the Open Society Institute, with additional support from the Ford Foundation, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, George Gund Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Huber Foundation, Moriah Fund, David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Turner Foundation.

The National Women's Law Center is a nonprofit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights. NWLC focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families, including health, education, employment, and economic security, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.

The mission of the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) is healing, teaching, discovery and community service. The Center for Women's Health encompasses this mission with programs designed in clinical care, research and education. The mission of the Division of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology is to provide an academic environment for teaching, research and service in the areas of medical informatics and clinical epidemiology.