The 2007 edition of Making the Grade on Women’s Health is the fourth in a series. In addition to reporting on the current state of women’s health status and health policies, this edition tracks the progress (or lack thereof) each state has made compared to three years ago.
Despite recent progress in addressing the health care needs of women, serious problems remain. Our nation lacks a comprehensive and reliable set of accepted benchmarks on women’s health. The nation has not focused consistently and comprehensively on improving women’s overall health and well-being, and public policy is primarily focused—and even then inadequately—on only a few diseases and health conditions affecting women. There are critical gaps in research on women’s health, and even when such research has been done, often only limited results are publicly available. These problems are compounded for specific populations of women by our nation’s failure to focus on health disparities based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, and socioeconomic status. The Report Card was developed to encourage the nation and the states to address and overcome these very serious problems.
The Report Card provides “status” indicators that measure women’s access to health care services, the degree to which they receive preventive health care and engage in health-promoting activities, the occurrence of key women’s health conditions, and the extent to which the communities in which women live enhance their health and well-being. The Report Card also provides a set of “policy” indicators, which are based on state statutes, regulations, policies and programs that address the problems identified by the health status indicators.
For the indicators presented, the Report Card assesses women’s health in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and it provides information on women’s health status nationally and federal government policies and programs important to advancing women’s health and well-being.
The Report Card recognizes the strong relationship between health and income, which is especially important for women, who represent the majority of the poor. It also has a broad focus on women’s well-being, which the Report Card defines as occurring when a woman’s mental, physical, social, economic, political, educational and environmental quality of life allows her to pursue her full potential.
The Report Card Indicators
The Report Card includes 34 status indicators and 63 policy indicators. The status and policy indicators address a broad range of women’s health issues, allowing the national and state report cards to provide a detailed assessment of government performance in promoting and advancing women’s health. An array of demographic information (e.g., the number of women in the state by age, by race, by ethnicity, in linguistic isolation, in rural and urban areas) is included to place the status and policy indicators in context, in recognition of the many factors that can affect women’s health.
Health status indicators were selected primarily based on whether they had a significant impact on women’s quality of life, functioning and well-being, and whether they affected a large number of women generally or in a specific population and/or age group. Additional criteria were: whether the women’s health issue addressed by the indicator could be improved; was measurable across the states; and was commonly accepted as a measure or reflected an important emerging issue where a problem was increasing in prevalence, incidence, or severity.
Similar criteria were applied in selecting the indicators for health policies. Most importantly, the policy indicators were selected based on whether they addressed and could significantly improve the women’s health issues reflected in the status indicators, whether they were measurable and allowed for comparisons among the states, and whether they had been adopted by at least one state.
The Report Card reviews both status and policy indicators in the following four categories:
1) Women’s Access to Health Care Services: Numerous factors affect women’s access to health care services, including the affordability and availability of such services, and whether patients have information about how and why it is important to secure access to them.
2) Addressing Wellness and Prevention: Recognizing the importance of promoting wellness and preventing illness, the Report Card focuses on indicators that reflect the extent to which women have access to critical screening tests and preventive care more broadly.
3) Key Health Conditions, Diseases and Causes of Death for Women: The Report Card examines indicators reflecting significant health conditions, diseases and causes of death for women: key causes of death; chronic conditions; reproductive health; mental health; and violence against women.
4) Living in a Healthy Community
: The community in which a woman lives affects virtually all aspects of her health and well-being. The Report Card includes key measures of whether a community fosters good health.
This Report Card is intended to motivate everyone interested in women’s health to work toward improved health and health care for all women in the United States. The wealth of information in the Report Card is not merely an evaluation of women’s health currently, but an indication of where progress is needed to secure women’s health in the future.
Click here to read about the methodology employed in this report.
Click here for more information about the national committee of experts who helped in the development of this report.