Women’s Health Report Card shows complexities, opportunities

 
May 22, 2012
 
 
Biostatistics professor Amy Herring (left) with master's student Katie Garcia

Biostatistics professor Amy Herring (left) with master’s student Katie Garcia

More North Carolina women are getting mammograms and colonoscopies, but fewer are receiving first-trimester prenatal care.

 
Those are some of the findings of the Center for Women’s Health Research’s (CWHR) 2012 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card, which was issued last week. Though normally released biennially, 2012′s report collected health data from 2001-2009, giving researchers and policy makers an almost decade-long view of women’s health trends in the state. The Center used information on important benchmarks such as preventative care, obesity and birth weight to gauge the health of the state’s 4.9 million women.
 
“The Center has learned that it’s important to look at long-term perspective,” said Wendy Brewster, MD, director of CWHR. “We may not be where we want to be, but overall we’re doing better. There may be some Ds and Fs, but we’re improving.”
 
Obesity and its ensuing diseases, diabetes and heart disease, continue to cause problems for North Carolinians. Brewster said 27 percent of women in the state are obese, up from 23 percent in 2000. The health grades for maternal health aren’t promising either; less than half of new moms in North Carolina are breastfeeding at three months postpartum, and nine percent of babies were of low birth weight in 2009.
 
But there have been some significant improvements in health prevention measures, with 80 percent of women over the age of 50 reporting having had a mammogram in the last two years.
 
Biostatistics professor Amy Herring, ScD, and biostatistics master’s students Katie Garcia and Tyler Bardsley (now an alumnus) helped organize and collate the data, which was collected from sources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics and North Carolina Vitals.
 
Garcia, who spent 10 hours per week last year “crunching the numbers” and placing the statistics into age and ethnicity categories said the experience echoed what she has learned in the classroom.
 
“Getting to walk through this project was really helpful,” said Garcia, who would like to continue working with women and reproductive health statistics. “I constantly used things I was learning in class, and coming up with overall health trends was very rewarding.”
 
Garcia said the most interesting data to her was documenting mental health trends, which showed that more North Carolina women were reporting prolonged periods (more than 14 days) of poor mental health.
 
Herring, who has worked on the 2012 report card for the last two years, said the data shows the complexity of health issues in the state.
 

 
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UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health contact: Linda Kastleman, communications editor, (919) 966-8317 or linda_kastleman@unc.edu.