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Women's health grade is low

| December 14, 2010 8:00 PM

Despite advances in medical science and awareness campaigns, the U.S. isn't making many gains in women's health.

The latest report card was issued Dec. 9, grading each state and the nation as a whole on 26 women's health indicators. Generally while three national goals were met - the number of women getting mammograms, annual dentist visits, and colorectal cancer screenings - the same was true in 2007. Overall the nation's grade, along with Idaho's, is "unsatisfactory."

The 2010 Making the Grade on Women's Health: A National and State-by-State Report Card is the fifth since 2000, designed to help correct the prior century's relative paucity of data on the physical and mental health of women, as compared with men. In addition to specific data on available services, access, insurance, and disease rates, states are ranked by number and given one of four grades: S (satisfactory), S- (satisfactory minus), U (unsatisfactory), or F (fail). The standards used by the report are those set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Eleven states received Fs; most are in the South. Idaho ranks 28. No state received the highest "S" ranking and only two - Massachusetts and Vermont - received an S-.

Idaho's unsatisfactory rating is an average. It includes F grades in the uninsured (19.8 percent, an increase from 17.6 percent in 2007), mammograms, stroke deaths, diabetes, reproductive health, poverty, and sufficiency of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Looking at the positive, Idaho received S- in smoking (also down in 41 other states), binge drinking (up nationwide), coronary disease, and infant mortality.

A surprising and disturbing trend is the overall decrease in the number of women getting pap smears. This test for cervical cancer is routinely done during annual checkups, which are often covered by insurance. Both Idaho and the nation overall dropped rank from U to F in the last three years. The only ranking which improved nationwide by a full grade is cholesterol screening.

For more information on the report see www.womenshealth.gov and http://hrc.nwlc.org/key-findings.

Sholeh Patrick, J. D. is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. E-mail sholehjo@hotmail.com

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