January 7th, 2011
01:52 PM ET
As report cards go, this one was pretty depressing. The Women’s Health Care Report Card for 2010 from the National Women's Law Center showed a nation failing the majority of its population. Not a single state in our fine union received a “Satisfactory” grade. Not one!
On just about every count, women’s health is doing worse—from access to care to preventive tests, to measures of disease.
Since the previous report card in 2007, women have more obesity, hypertension, chlamydia and binge-drinking. Fewer are getting Pap tests.
A few states showed some improvements in the death rates from stroke and heart disease, but the country as a whole received a failing grade in these areas.
Why are we doing so poorly? Is the bad economy driving women to drink more? Perhaps scarce dollars are being diverted to household expenses rather than medical care.
Or is this simply the natural outcome of a dysfunctional health care system? We are the only country in the world that allows health to be a free market commodity. As the heated debate over health care reform last year indicated, we don’t want anything that smacks of “socialism” (even if we are perfectly content to have societally supported, guaranteed, fire protection and police protection).
The most interesting thing to me was to see which states had the highest overall success rates in women’s health. These were Massachusetts and Vermont—the two states that come closest to having universal health coverage. Both states bucked the national trend, braved the “socialism” red herring, and passed laws striving for complete health care coverage for their residents.
The current report card for women’s health care is depressing, but the future looks brighter. The Affordable Health Care Act offers broad improvements in primary care, starting in 2014. It also prohibits discrimination in health care based on gender.
Until then, perhaps it pays for women (and men) to move to Vermont or Massachusetts.
Danielle Ofri is an internist at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital, and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. Her most recent book, “Medicine in Translation: Journeys with My Patients,”
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