2005 N.C. Women's Health Report Card findings issued at Raleigh press conference

August 08, 2005
CHAPEL HILL — Twenty-eight percent of North Carolina women get no regular exercise and one in four is considered obese by standard criteria. Sedentary lifestyle and obesity are taking their toll – high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and diabetes are all on the rise.Researchers announced these and other findings today (Aug. 8) in Raleigh, at the release of the 2005 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card. Prepared by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Center for Women’s Health Research, the report card features grades of A, B, C, D and F based on improvements or declines in multiple indicators of women’s health status.

The data were compiled from state health behavior surveys, state vital statistics and disease reporting systems, and reports on insurance coverage and poverty. The report card will be delivered to more than 20,000 health-care providers statewide in the coming weeks.

While the report card found significant health concerns, especially among minority populations, there also were signs of improvement since the last report was issued two years ago:

* Teen pregnancy rates have declined overall from 4.9 percent to 3.9 percent over the five-year window of most recent data. * Overall cases of syphilis have decreased dramatically from 6.1 per 100,000 to 1.3 per 100,000, and cases of gonorrhea have decreased from 259 per 100,000 to 210 over the same time period. * Overall deaths from cervical cancer have decreased from 4.1 per 100,000 to 2.9 per 100,000 over the five-year time period used for determining report card grades.

Heart disease and stroke remain the leading causes of death for women statewide. Overall, women have notably high risk of death and disability from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – more than 50 percent above the national goals set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy People 2010 campaign.

“This year’s grades reveal that both women and their care providers have work to do,” said Dr. Katherine Hartmann, director of UNC’s Center for Women’s Health Research. “We need to view how we live our lives – what we eat, whether we smoke, how we handle stress, how we treat our bodies – as an urgent health priority, and doctors need to reinforce that message.”

Hartmann also is associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in UNC’s School of Medicine and of epidemiology in UNC’s School of Public Health.

“Everyone needs to understand that the health of women in North Carolina consistently ranks in the lowest third of the nation and that this has an immense social and economic cost,” said Jaki Shelton Green, poet, recipient of the 2003 North Carolina Award for Literature and spokeswoman for the 2005 report card initiative.

“Investing in the health of women is investing in improving the lives of children, household and community welfare and ultimately lowers health-care costs,” she added.

Health-care providers should not only address lifestyle but also “assure that we close the gaps in screening needs,” said Dr. Robert Golden, vice dean of UNC’s School of Medicine. “Almost half of women who should have had colorectal cancer screening have never been tested, and one in six women eligible for mammograms has not had one in the last two years.”

Overall, the report card found, minority women are disproportionately affected by poor health, experiencing higher rates of almost all conditions tracked by the report card. Included are diabetes, heart disease, stroke and breast cancer deaths. They also are at greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases, higher infant mortality and less prenatal care. More minority women lack health insurance, are unemployed and live below the poverty level. The report card notes that reduced access to care may partially explain differences in health status.

“It is absolutely essential that we investigate and address why some groups, especially the poor and minorities, are more likely to develop and die from certain conditions, like cardiovascular disease, diabetes and HIV,” said Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of UNC’s School of Public Health.

“This report highlights how critical it is that we all continue our work to alter this profile and reduce health disparities,” she said. “We know – and this report supports – that it is indeed possible to discover the causes, then act to overcome them. Knowing is not enough. We must develop the programs to improve women’s health and then put this knowledge to work for the women of North Carolina.”

Speakers at the announcement of report card findings included: N.C. Sen. Katie Dorsett (Guilford County) and N.C. Rep. Verla Insko (Orange County), legislative sponsors; University of North Carolina President Molly Broad and Johnson C. Smith University President Dr. Dorothy Yancy, event co-hosts; Steve Allred, executive associate provost at UNC-Chapel Hill; and Jaki Shelton Green, the 2005 women’s report card spokeswoman.

Founded in 2000, UNC’s Center for Women’s Health Research serves the women of North Carolina and the nation by documenting the health status of women, studying models for improving care, evaluating promising new treatments and developing effective prevention programs.

The 2005 report card was created in partnership with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the N.C. Area Health Education Centers, UNC’s Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, the UNC Health Care System, UNC’s schools of medicine and public health, the Chapel Hill Service League and the N.C. Obstetrical and Gynecological Society.

To view the report card, including assigned grades, online, visit www.cwhr.unc.edu.

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Note: Contact Hartmann at (919) 966-7928, khartman@med.unc.edu or (919) 216-5951 (pager). For a contact list of specialists in specific areas covered in the report card, go to http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/aug05/contactlist.htm


UNC Center for Women’s Health Research contacts: Dr. Carol Lorenz, (919) 966-7627 or clorenz@schsr.unc.edu or Rachel Palmieri, rachelp@email.unc.edu

News Services contacts: Deb Saine, (919) 962-8415 (office), (919) 218-2380 (cell) or deborah_saine@unc.edu or Karen Moon, (919) 962-8595 (office) or (919) 218-2467 (cell)

For further information please contact Ramona DuBose by email at ramona_dubose@unc.edu