Oregon is 'Unsatisfactory' When it Comes to Women's Health

02/21/11  Portland, Ore.

OHSU researcher, physician is a lead author on fourth national women's health report card.

Oregon continues to come up short when it comes to women's health issues, according to the fourth edition of Making the Grade on Women's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card. The report gave Oregon, ranked 14th in the nation, an overall 'unsatisfactory' rating in meeting national goals for women's health.

The fourth edition of the Report Card will be released on Wednesday, Oct. 17, by the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University. Michelle Berlin, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU School of Medicine, is the primary author for health status indicators, while Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center is lead author for policy indicator information.
The Report Card is a comprehensive analysis of the state of women's health in the United States, evaluating the nation as a whole and on a state-by-state basis on existing health policies and 27 health benchmarks, such as obesity, access to prenatal care, life expectancy and overall access to health care. The benchmarks were independently developed by the researchers; some were based upon goals set for 2010 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People Initiative.
Compared to the 2004 report card, Oregon gained ground in only three benchmarks: decreasing rates of binge drinking and high blood pressure, and increasing rates of high school completion. Oregon lost ground in four benchmarks, including Pap smears, no leisure-time physical activity, obesity and diabetes.
"From the data we've received in the Report Card it's clear to me that we aren't doing well in prevention activities for women, particularly for cardiovascular disease, cancer and prenatal care," said Berlin, director of the OHSU Center of Excellence in Women's Health. "That lack of preventive care is linked to a prevalence of uninsured and underinsured women in our state - we know that one-fifth of Oregon women lack health insurance."
Berlin also noted that preventive activities may be especially important for Oregonians, in part because we know that we have high mortality rates for conditions which respond to prevention. "One-third of adult women in Oregon have not had a cholesterol check in the last five years; we know that bad cholesterol levels are linked with higher rates of diabetes, heart attacks and stroke." Berlin said. "And for cancer prevention, we need to do better as well: nearly one-third of women older than 40 have not had a mammogram in the last five years and one-fifth of adult Oregon women have gone without a Pap smear in the last five years.
"In order for women's health to improve in our state, we should pour increased efforts and resources into obtaining preventive care for everyone, particularly for those with little or no health insurance."
No state received an overall "satisfactory" grade for women's health status, although three states received a "satisfactory minus," down from eight states that received a "satisfactory minus" in 2004. Vermont received a "satisfactory minus" and ranks No. 1, followed by Minnesota and Massachusetts. Twelve states received failing grades, up from six states that failed in 2004. Mississippi ranks last. The other 11 failing states are Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, Texas and Alabama. The remaining states received "unsatisfactory" marks.
"By and large, states are failing to meet minimum standards when it comes to women's health," said Judy Waxman, NWLC vice president for health and reproductive rights. "The states' patchwork system of policies regarding women's health result in far too many women falling through the cracks and not accessing the services they need to maintain optimal health."
To access the online version of the report, including state-specific reports, visit www.ohsuwomenshealth.com or www.nwlc.org for full report.
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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.