- Report Published -
|Report of the Virginia Department of the Statistical Profile of Women's Health Status in Virginia|
|Department of Health|
|HJR 621 (Regular Session, 1993)|
|House Joint Resolution No. 621 requested the Department of Health to prepare a statistical profile of women's health status in the Commonwealth, focusing on women of child bearing age up to age 65. This profile is meant to be a tool for identifying current and potential women's health issues and for making recommendations for data collection and targeting of resources.|
A Women's Health Task Force of persons with expertise in women's issues reviewed the preliminary findings and assisted the Department of Health in identifying women's health issues of particular concern for Virginia and in developing recommendations.
Women's Health Status
Women in Virginia have a variety of health concerns, many of which are related to age. The major health concerns of young adult women differ significantly from those of middle-aged women. See Figure 1. Some health problems are more common in particular racial and ethnic groups, which often reflect a difference in the group's economic status. Poverty is a major contribution to the status of women's health as poverty limits one's ability to purchase basic health care services and commodities to provide for good health including nutritious foods, housing and transportation.
Leading Causes of Death to Women in Virginia
1. Injuries are the leading cause of death for both men and women under 34 years of age in Virginia. Motor vehicle crashes account for 45% of these deaths in women and 33% of these deaths in men. Rates of death from unintentional injuries are decreasing. While further study is needed to explain the decreasing death rates from unintentional injuries among females in Virginia, contributing factors may include safety education programs, use of automobile safety belts, safer automobiles and highways, and new medical technology and management of trauma.
2. Cancer is the leading cause of death among Virginia women 35 to 64 years of age with breast cancer being the most common form of cancer death. The rate of cancer deaths among all females is increasing, notably from breast cancer and lung cancer.
Selected Conditions With Major Impact on Women's Health
1. In 1993, 25,922 battered women were served by the Virginia Family Violence Prevention Program; of these, 16,575 were first visits. The number of women requesting services from domestic violence programs has increased significantly in recent years.
2. In 1992, there was a 36% increase in new cases of AIDS among Virginia women; 75% of these women were African-American. HIV infection and AIDS among women is increasing at an alarming rate.
3. In 1992, there were 6,744 Virginia women reported with gonorrhea; 75% of these women belonged to racial minorities. The highest age specific incidence rate was among female teenagers.
4. In 1991, it is documented that 6,908 Virginia teens under 18 became pregnant. Non-white teens were twice as likely as other Virginia teens to become pregnant.
5. In 1993, 8% of women 18 and older reported that they at some time had been diagnosed with depression.
Health Risk Behaviors That Affect Women
1. 20% of women in Virginia 18 and older are overweight compared to 18% of men.
2. 76% of women in Virginia 18 and older reported a sedentary lifestyle compared to 71% of men.
3. 18% of women in Virginia 18 and older reported that they were regular smokers compared to 25% of men.
4. 22% of women do not consistently use a seatbelt, compared to 32% of men.
5. 2% of women in Virginia 18 and older reported that in a month prior to the survey they had driven when they perhaps had had too much to drink, compared to 5% of men.
6. 8.5% of women in Virginia 18 and older reported binge drinking on at least one occasion during the month prior to the survey, compared to 22% of men.
Gaps in Resources for Women
1. 24% of Virginia women over age 40 have never had a mammogram.
2. In 1993, 62% of the battered women and their children who sought shelter in Virginia were turned away, due to lack of space.
3. One in four Virginia women is uninsured or underinsured.
4. Teens lack access to comprehensive health services due to limited financial resources or inadequate medical insurance, limited trained providers and lack of suitable hours.
Availability of Data on Women's Health Status
1. None of the current data systems are set up to focus on women's health. Therefore, to extract the data on women requires significant work. Trend data are not readily available for most conditions and must be generated from annual reports.
2. The most comprehensive data are available for population demographics, pregnancies, births, deaths, infectious diseases, and cancer. These data are available by age, rare, and geographic location.
3. Data for the population at large are not routinely available for chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and lupus; injuries which do not result in death or hospitalization; mental health problems; and substance abuse. The Patient Level Data System is an anticipated new source of data and serious chronic and acute diseases and injuries.
4. Data are incomplete or not available on educational level, income level, and minority groups.
Targeting Resources to Impact on the Health of Women
The implementation of the Joint Commission on Health Care recommendations to increase overall access to primary care services and to provide health insurance for Virginians who currently lack coverage will improve the health status of women as well as men. However, specific attention should be given to insure that the issues specific to women are recognized and addressed.
1. To promote the general health of women, there should be better access to primary health care services including services of obstetrician/gynecologists and mid-level practitioners. Priority should be given to making clinical preventive services available to all women.
2. Public and private funding for health education and prevention programs should be directed to:
• Programs to prevent teenage pregnancies as recommended by the Maternal and Child Health Council.
• HIV/AIDS education and prevention programs targeted toward women, minorities and teens.
• Programs that address lifestyle risk factors such as smoking, overweight, lack of exercise and the consequences of sexual activity.
A concise brochure on women's health status in the Commonwealth should be prepared and distributed for use by employers, health care providers, educators and the various branches of state and local government.
Further Data Collection: Measuring the Health Status of Women
1. Existing data systems should be modified to collect and analyze health-related data on women. This should include data by specific minority groups for those problems that disproportionately affect minorities.
2. The incidence and effects of violence against women should be focal points for additional data collection because exiting data are not adequate to determine the fall impact of violence on the health of women.
3. The Department of Health should continue to study information needs and methods for collecting data to adequately measure women's health in Virginia, and to make specific recommendations to improve the complete assessment of women's health. The Healthy People 2000: National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives should be used as a guideline for measuring the health status of Virginia's women.