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Women's Health

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Some State-level policies are associated with women's mortality rates for certain diseases

The four leading causes of death for women in the United States are heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, and breast cancer. According to researchers from the Oregon Health & Science University, some State-level policies are associated with women's mortality rates for these diseases. Researchers, supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (T32 HS00069), worked with experts in women's health and health policy to examine State policies affecting women's health in four areas: reproductive issues (for example, State requirements for private insurers to cover Pap and cervical cancer screening), economic issues (for example, child support payments), access to care (for example, Medicaid eligibility and expansion efforts), and ensuring healthy communities (for example, gun control, aid to women who are victims of violence, and tracking hazardous environmental exposures).

Researchers also examined the relationships between policies and six State-level health outcomes: heart disease, lung cancer, breast cancer, stroke mortality, infant mortality, and mental health. Medicaid eligibility policies accounted for 66 percent of the variance in heart disease mortality across States. Policies affecting violence against women and gun control, family medical support, efforts to expand Medicaid, and environmental tracking accounted for 50 percent of the variance in lung cancer mortality. Policies on chlamydia screening, Medicaid eligibility, and safety net services accounted for 70 percent of variance in breast cancer deaths. Gun control, environmental tracking, patient protection, and expanded State insurance policies accounted for 68 percent of variance in stroke mortality.

See "Relating health policy to women's health outcomes," by Jennifer P. Wisdom, Ph.D., M.P.H., Michelle Berlin, M.D., and Jodi A. Lapidus, Ph.D., in the October 2005 Social Science & Medicine 61, pp. 1776-1784.

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