Illinois action blog

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Does Your State Make the Grade?

Guest Post by Julia Kaye, Health and Reproductive Rights Program Assistant
National Women's Law Center

Suddenly the 2010 Winter Olympics I’ve been eagerly anticipating since ’06 can’t take long enough to get here. Yesterday’s release of Making the Grade on Women’s Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card made it clear that there is serious work to be done in women’s health before our nation and its states achieve the benchmarks set by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 initiative. If we’re still going to achieve these goals within the Healthy People’s timeline, then 2010 better come “later,” rather than sooner.

The fourth of a series of health report cards released by the National Women’s Law Center, the 2007 edition of Making the Grade makes it particularly clear that interventions in women’s health and health care policy are needed on both the federal and state levels. The 27 status indicators assessed by the Report Card show that U.S. women are nowhere near as healthy as they should be, the reasons for which quickly become apparent when you look at the Report Card’s 63 policy indicators. These indicators reveal which states have chosen to implement policies that positively impact women’s health — and which states have not.

The nation received an overall grade of “unsatisfactory,” and only received “satisfactory” grades in three of the 27 status benchmarks assessed by the Report Card, one additional benchmark since the Report Card was last published in 2004. These three goals are: the percentage of women age 40 and older across the country getting mammograms regularly, the number of women age 50 and older who receive screenings for colorectal cancer, and the number of annual dental visits. (Check out the New York Times’ October 11th article, Boom Times for Dentists,but Not for Teeth, and you might just start to wonder if the nation will be able to maintain high scores in even these three categories in time for the next Report Card!). Though three “satisfactory” grades this year are certainly better than two last year, the nation now fails to meet 12 of the 27 status benchmarks, an increase of three failing grades since 2004. Most troubling are the rapidly increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in our country. Rates of obesity increased in every one of the 51 states (including D.C.) during the past three years, and the number of women diagnosed with diabetes increased in 43 states. Take your time, 2010, take your time.

Things aren’t looking much brighter on a state-by-state basis, either. The pack is led, yet again, by Vermont, Minnesota and Massachusetts (who said a hearty breakfast of pancakes and syrup doesn’t do a body right?), with Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi maintaining position
at the tail end. All of the states missed ten benchmarks (with many missing far more!), including access to health insurance; and twelve states received overall failing grades, five more than in 2004. When the categories are broken down by race and ethnicity, the data is even more alarming — especially when it comes to disparities in access to care. There is much work to be done, indeed.

The policy indicators reveal that states have made more progress in adopting policies to advance women's health, but still have a long way to go. Twenty states have improved their provision of Medicaid coverage for smoking cessation treatment (good news!), but 12 states increased co-payments to their prescription drug coverage under Medicaid (bad news). Nineteen states have improved their minimum wage (good news!) but four states no longer allow women to receive an abortion without a mandatory waiting period (bad news). The best policy news is that all 51 states now offer Medicaid coverage for breast and cervical cancer, and all states now participate in the Food Stamp Nutrition and Education Program (FSNEP).

A special note to those states at the bottom of the list (you know who you are): If you don’t require private insurers to cover Chlamydia screenings (and only two, count ‘em, two states do), your rates of Chlamydia are probably a bit higher than most college kids in your state would like. If something like 10% of your population has diabetes, how about requiring private insurance plans to include diabetes supplies and education as part of general coverage? And when 18% of women in this country are without insurance, it might be time for certain, powerful people to take their heads out of the sand and start doing something about it.

Check out the Report Card, so you can brag to your friends about how your state is ranked second when it comes to women eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day (uhem, D.C.);
question why you chose to go to university in Wisconsin, which is ranked 51st for binge drinking (or why, oh why, did you possibly go elsewhere…?); or — and we strongly suggest this last one — write a letter to your representatives demanding that they implement policies that promote women’s health. After all, it’s your health that hangs in the balance.

Cross-posted at Womenstake.

technorati tags: womenstake, NWLC, women's health, healthcare

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