Work, Motherhood, Physician Counseling & Caregiving Are Among Key Influences On Women's Health

Analysis Of Landmark Women's Health Survey Reveals Complex Interaction Of Health, Health System, And Social Factors

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Although women tend to visit at least one doctor once a year, many lack critical health information and do not receive needed counseling. In addition, women who care for elderly, sick, or disabled family members are significantly more likely to be in poor health and to have experienced difficulty getting care themselves than women who do not have these responsibilities. Further, low-income women with little education are especially limited in their ability to live healthy lives, and women who are mothers and also have low incomes or limited education experience poorer health status than their counterparts who do not have children. However, women living with children fare better than women without children in the household on health measures such as lower rates of depressive symptoms and higher rates of preventive care. Leading experts discussed these and other findings from the Commonwealth Fund 1998 Survey of Women's Health at the Listening to Women's Voices briefing for policy makers, analysts and advocates here this morning. Sponsored by the Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, the event featured: Karen Scott Collins, M.D., Vice President, The Commonwealth Fund; Karen Donelan, Associate Professor, Harvard School of Public Health; Barbara Gault, Director of Research, Institute for Women's Policy Research; and Marilyn Falik, Vice President, MDS Associates. At the briefing, the Jacobs Institute released the May/June edition of Women's Health Issues, which features eight new papers examining data from the survey. The papers highlight implications for doctors and other health professionals as well as for policy makers. "The Commonwealth Fund Survey contains a wealth of information, now being published for the first time, regarding the treatment and care of women," said Martha Romans, Executive Director of the Jacobs Institute. "These findings stress the importance of educating practitioners and patients, and the need for more comprehensive medical and mental services for all women." The Commonwealth Fund Survey is a leading source of information on the ways that women's circumstances, roles and responsibilities influence their health. "A common theme from these papers is the importance of providing information to women about their health and health care choices," said Karen Scott Collins, M.D., vice president at The Commonwealth Fund. "In fact, women who receive counseling from their physicians are more satisfied with their health care - but far too often the opportunity for communication is lost." The papers in the May/June edition of Women's Health Issues address: Women's Health Issues Across the Lifespan by Roberta Wyn, PhD and Beatriz Solis, MPH

  • Younger women have worse problems with access to health care than older women do.
  • Younger and elderly women are the most economically disadvantaged.
  • Disparities in how the health care system works have a negative impact on many women-income, education, age, race and ethnicity are all factors affecting women's access to care.
The Influence of Income, Education, and Work Status on Women's Well Being by Holly Mead, MPP, Kristine Witkowski, PhD, Barbara Gault, PhD, and Heidi Hartmann, PhD
  • Women with part-time jobs, on average, use more preventive services than women who have full-time employment or who are not employed.
  • Women with low family income report significantly lower health status than women in the highest income group.
Motherhood, Health Status, and Health Care by Amy B. Bernstein, ScD
  • Having children in the household is associated with lower depressive symptoms and more frequent use of some preventive services.
  • A cumulative burden of multiple stressors (such as being poor, uninsured, less educated, employed full-time, or being a single mother) relates to worse health status, levels of depression, and opportunities for obtaining health care. Multiple stressors also seem to have a stronger effect on mothers than on non-mothers.
Caregiving: Challenges and Implications for Women's Health by Karen Donelan, ScD, Marilyn Falik, PhD, and Catherine M. DesRoches, DrPH
  • Caregivers experience double jeopardy - they are significantly more likely to be in poor health and are more likely to report having difficulties getting needed medical care.
  • Women are twice as likely as men to assume caregiving responsibilities for sick or disabled relatives.
Managed Care and Women's Health: Access, Preventive Services, and Satisfaction by Carol S. Weisman, PhD and Jillian T. Henderson, MPH
  • Women who have been enrolled in their health care plan for at least one year have received the same or better access to care in managed care plans as compared to fee-for-service with utilization controls and traditional fee-for-service plans.
  • Women enrolled in managed care plans received more gender-specific clinical preventive services (i.e. breast examinations, Pap smears, mammograms, etc.) than women in other plans.
  • Woman enrolled in managed care plans reported lower satisfaction with care than women with other types of health insurance. Satisfaction was greatest among women who received counseling from their physicians.
Midlife Women Making Hormone Therapy Decisions by Aileen MacLaren, CNM, PhD and Nancy Fugate Woods, RN, PhD, FAAN
  • Nearly four in ten menopausal women report current hormone therapy use.
  • Age, education, race, hysterectomy status, having health insurance, use of calcium supplements and comfort in communicating with a doctor are important factors associated with hormone therapy use.
  • Having insurance and a regular source of primary care are the most important determinants of receiving preventive services and hormone therapy use.
Psychological Distress, Unmet Need, and Barriers to Mental Health Care for Women by Cathy Donald Sherbourne, PhD, Megan Dwight-Johnson, MD, MPH, and Ruth Klap, PhD
  • Depressive/anxiety symptoms are common and access to care for psychological distress remains a problem for many women, especially for minorities, those with less education and those without a usual source of health care.
  • More than one third of women with an unmet need of mental health care cited a desire to handle their problems themselves.
Prevalence of Violence and Its Implications for Women's Health by Stacey B. Plichta, ScD and Marilyn Falik, PhD
  • More than four of ten women in the U.S. are likely to have experienced one or more forms of violence, including child abuse, physical assault, rape and intimate partner violence.
  • li>Only one-third of women who experience violence have discussed it with a physician.
  • Despite the negative health consequences of violence, women who experience violence are more likely than other women to report difficulties in obtaining needed care. Women's Health Issues is the official publication of The Jacobs Institute of Women's Health, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the knowledge, practice, and understanding of women's health by making America's health care system work better for women. For the next few years, the Jacobs Institute is placing an emphasis on managed care, heart disease and menopause - cutting edge issues that affect women's health and lives. Jacobs Institute Breakfast Seminars are sponsored through an unrestricted grant from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories.
NOTE: Review copies of the articles are available to media from Ridgely Benjamin at 202/371-1999.

Publication Details

Publication Date: June 6, 2001
Related Topics
Vulnerable Populations

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