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Although women use more health care services and spend more on medications than men, inequalities in care still limit women's access to effective diagnostic procedures and therapies. Much still needs to be done to improve care access, receipt, and quality for this priority population, asserts Rosaly Correa-de-Araujo, M.D., M.Sc., Ph.D., Senior Advisor on Women's Health, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in a recent editorial. She cites several groups that are working to eliminate inequalities in care and improve health care and quality of life for women of all ages.
For example, the goal of the Women's Health Interest Group created at AcademyHealth is to further health services research focused on women. Dr. Correa-de-Araujo notes five key areas for advancing women's health: research, clinical practice, policy, curriculum development, and research training. Currently, an expanded research agenda includes identifying health care disparities between the sexes and among female subpopulations, as well as understanding differences between men and women in disease manifestations and response to therapy.
As we move toward an approach that focuses separately on women and men, opportunities will emerge to develop targeted quality measures, which if implemented as best practices may lead to decreases in health care costs and elimination of inequalities in care, according to Dr. Correa-de-Araujo. The Women's Health Measurement Advisory Panel of the National Council on Quality Assurance is developing quality measures on health conditions particularly relevant to women, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis.
Improving care of women also calls for studies of health literacy of patients and cultural competency of health care professionals to better care for minority women. Policies targeting the basic needs of women are in place. However, newer policies and standards of care may be needed as women age and their risk of developing chronic disease increases. Fortunately, U.S. medical schools have improved their women's health curriculum. Also, the National Institutes of Health, Office of Research on Women's Health, has a unique program to tackle career development and building of research skills in women's health.
See "A wake-up call to advance women's health," by Dr. Correa-de-Araujo, in Women's Health Issues 14, pp. 31-34, 2004.
Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 04-R044) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse. This article is also available on the AHRQ Web site at www.ahrq.gov/research/wmwakeup.htm.
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