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Some Tidbits from the 2009 Tennessee Women’s Health Report

August 26, 2009

The 2009 Tennessee Women’s Health Report Card [PDF] (mentioned earlier with disclaimer here) is a snapshot of the health status of some women in the state. Some things that stood out to me were the various health disparities apparent in the results.

  • Black women have much higher rates (as in, doubled) of infant deaths (16.4/1000 vs. 8.3 for all women), higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), and a higher rate of deaths from breast cancer, diabetes and homicide than other women, and were least likely to “engage in leisure time activity.”
  • White women are most likely to get prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy, and have higher rates of deaths from lung cancer (probably because they smoke more) and suicide.
  • Hispanic women are least likely to get prenatal care at all, and were more frequently disabled.

More than 30% of women had not seen a dentist in the last year.

Asian women and other non-white/black/hispanic women are not included at all, likely due to too small of a sample size.

The report doesn’t really examine all of these items in detail, although it does provide some notes, such as that Black women’s breast cancers are often diagnosed at a later stage. It really is a snapshot, so you will not find an in-depth discussion of why “leisure time” activity is not as accessible to some women, or how Hispanic women may fear to travel to clinics for prenatal care in an environment that gives us the Villegas situation. Report cards like this are not intended to explain all of those details in depth, although they leave nerds like me with assorted questions about barriers to healthcare that aren’t accounted for by simple figures of employment and insurance. Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice of Meharry, a partner on the report, talks about some of the socioeconomic factors in this interview with WPLN.

What it does do, however, is provide a set of markers, highlighting some areas for improvement (such as STIs) and potential interventions, and some factors which have already begun improving, such as the percentage of Black women who have received a recent mammogram (following outreach efforts across the state). It’s a baseline, something we can measure against later, and see how things might continue to change or reverse course, and it gives folks like Dr. Montgomery Rice a jumping off point to talk about some of those disparities and access issues.

For more information, this press release on the report card contains a good explanation from Dr. Katherine Hartmann (with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working) on why those alarming sexually transmitted infection figures may not be quite as alarming as they seem at first glance. Channel 4 also has a piece on the report card, and there are some bullet point highlights from Vanderbilt’s Women’s Health Research here.

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