How America’s Broken Health Care System Affects Women

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The idea of women’s empowerment is a touchy issue. It has been correlated with the myth of the “male decline” and other scare tactics put forth by those who may seek to sweep women’s issues under the proverbial rug.

However, one fact stands very clear.

Our current approach on women’s health care in the US is not working. I wrote the original post on Women’s Empowerment over a year ago.  Sadly women’s health care rights are more under the gun than ever.

What’s worse are America’s rankings in maternal and infant mortality.

The very future of our country depends on the willingness of women to become mothers, through giving birth; and yet, we have some of the worst birth statistics in the entire world.

In 2006, the US had the second worst death rates for mothers and newborns of any industrialized nation. But by 2011, America claimed the number one shameful ranking: Giving birth in the US today means you are more likely to die than if give you birth in any other developed country in the world.

The annual State of the World’s Mothers report says, “the United States has more neonatologists and neonatal intensive care beds per person than Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but its infant mortality rate is higher than any of those countries.”

“Amnesty International’s executive director Larry Cox in 2010 states “this country’s extraordinary record of medical advancement makes its haphazard approach to maternal care all the more scandalous and disgraceful.”

Health care in America needs a mother/woman-centered approach. American mothers and women are in great need of holistic, patient centered care, rather than disease care centered around drugs and diagnostic testing.

But that’s not all…

In the US, there are more women living in poverty and suffering from chronic diseases than men. (1,2)  As a woman and mother, I am saddened but not surprised. The findings provide us with the objective evidence of what we have felt intuitively for some time, women’s health care, its delivery, and the proactivity of women in America to take (back) control of their health and health care, must improve.

We need change in health care delivery for American women. Now.

Here are some of the women’s health statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the American Heart Association.

The scandalous statistics on the poor state of women’s health in America:

  •     The US ranks number one of all industrialized nations in maternal and infant mortality. (4)
  •     Women suffer from more chronic disease and pain than men. (1,2)
  •     Since 1984, more women have been dying from heart disease than men. (1)
  •     More women die from stroke, heart disease, and stress related illness than men. (1,2)
  •     Women suffer more from autoimmune diseases than men, at rates from 2:1 to as high as 10:1.2
  •     More women than men suffer from arthritis. (2)
  •     Because of the difference in sex-related cancers, women are more apt to get one of the “top 10 cancers” than men. 2
  •     The leading causes of death in women are (in order): heart disease, cancer, and stroke. More than ½ of all these deaths were attributed to heart disease and cancer. (2)
  •     Obesity has increased in alarming rates since the 1960’s, with over 61% of both men and women now overweight or obese. (3)
  •     Stress related disorders and mental health illness like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, attempted suicide, depression, and anxiety disorders, occur most often in women. (2)
  •     Three times as many women attempt suicide as men. (2)
  •     Lastly, when polled, more men (who have good reason to) report they are in excellent or very good health. (2)

 

Why are women in the US less healthy than men?

Could it be because…

  • More women live in poverty than men? (2)
  • Women in families experience higher rates of poverty than men living in families? (2)
  • Men report higher satisfaction levels with heath care and access to health care than women? (2)
  • More money is spent (per average expenditure) on men’s health care than women, despite one of the primary reasons for hospitalization and medical visits being maternity care? (2)
  • Women use prescription drugs more frequently than men, and of those drugs, the common ones are taken for depression and mental health? (2)
  • More women’s health care is paid for by Medicaid or out of pocket? (2)

 

The reasons are multi-faceted, but the bottom line is women urgently need better access to health care. Access to both conventional and integrative medicine is also an imperative. Why? Because integrative medicine techniques are less invasive, less costly, and highly effective. For an example, see my post: Why Every New Mom Needs Physical Therapy

Most importantly, in a time when women are severely underrepresented in the corporate, political, and legislative spheres, women also need and deserve the empowerment that comes with enjoying better health. And by the way, it (women’s health) isn’t “just” a woman’s issue – it is a family issue.  Or as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton puts it, “we must learn that women’s rights issues are human rights issues.” Read my past blog on A Mother’s Bill of Rights

“What’s good for women then, is good for the world.” Dr. Riane Eisler, Founder of the Caring Economy Campaign

If your wife, partner, mother, grandmother, or daughter doesn’t have access to health care when she needs it – every American is affected. Common sense might even say that investing in women’s health is investing in America health – and its future prosperity.

Dr. Riane Eisler of the Caring Economics movement, launched this past summer in Washington D.C., has unequivocally shown that raising the status of women raises a country’s economic status. Well, it’s settled then, women’s empowerment is good for our country, its citizens, AND its economy. What’s good for women then, is good for everyone.

Sources:
1. American Heart Association
2. US Dept. of Health and Human Services 2006. Women’s Health USA 2007 report
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Overweight and obesity. June 2004
4. Save the Children “State of the World’s Mothers” report 2011

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