US states failing in women's health, report finds

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CHICAGO, Oct 18 (Reuters) Most US states have made little progress toward improving women's health and many have fallen behind as rates of obesity and diabetes continue to climb, a new 50-state report released yesterday showed.

The best state for women's health is Vermont and the worst is Mississippi, the report concluded.

''The nation as a whole and individual states are falling farther behind in the quest to meet the national goals for women's health,'' said Judy Waxman of the National Women's Law Center, which released the report along with the Oregon Health&Science University.

The groups looked at 27 measures of women's health, ranging from the rates of routine screening tests for breast and colon cancer to obesity and access to health care. The benchmarks were based on the US Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People 2010 initiative.

''Overall the nation's grade was 'unsatisfactory.' Only three of the 27 benchmarks were met,'' Dr Michelle Berlin of the Oregon Health&Science University told a briefing.

The three exceptions were in the percentage of women 40 and older getting mammograms, regular dental care and colorectal cancer screening for women over 50.

No state received a passing or ''satisfactory'' grade for women's health status. Only three states -- Vermont, Minnesota and Massachusetts -- were ''satisfactory minus,'' a drop from a report in 2004 when eight states earned that mark.

Twelve states failed outright, up from six states in the 2004 report. Mississippi ranked last and the others with failing grades were Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas, Alabama and Indiana, as well as the District of Columbia.

The remaining states received ''unsatisfactory'' marks.

LARGE VARIATIONS BY STATE ''There is still an enormous problem in the United States,'' Berlin told the briefing. ''Obesity increased among women in every single state and rates of diabetes are on the rise.'' She said women's health status varies greatly by state.

For example, Hawaii has the lowest percentage of women who are obese at 16.7 per cent, followed by Colorado at 18 per cent.

Mississippi has the highest obesity rates, with 31.5 per cent of women classified as obese. West Virginia is a close second with 30.2 per cent of women considered obese.

Women in Utah and Colorado have the least trouble with high blood pressure, with 17.7 per cent in Utah and 19.2 per cent in Colorado suffering from the problem.

Women in Mississippi and Alabama fare worst, with about a third in each state reporting high blood pressure.

States with the lowest diabetes rates are Minnesota and Colorado, with 4.3 per cent of women in Minnesota and 4.4 per cent of women in Colorado having it. At the bottom are West Virginia at 11.1 per cent and Mississippi at 10.6 per cent.

Minnesota also has the lowest percentage of women without health insurance, with 9.1 per cent of women uninsured. But this figure has risen since the 2004 report.

Texas ranks worst with 28.1 percent of women uninsured.

''Across the country, 18 per cent of women lack health insurance.

Among minority populations, those percentages are significantly higher,'' Waxman said.

She said states should move faster to adopt policies that support women's health. The full report is available at www.nwlc.org.

REUTERS AE AS0923

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