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Best and worst states for women's health

  • Best and worst states for women's health

    The quality of women's health care in the United States varies wildly between states, income levels, and ethnic backgrounds. From heart disease and cancer rates to mental health and prenatal care, not all parts of the country are created equal.

    Recent reporting reveals this is the only country in the developed world where women who give birth are statistically more likely to die than their mothers were a generation ago. At least two women die giving birth every day, in part due to varying access and quality of care, further complicated by income levels and race. To get a more complete picture of women’s health in every state, Stacker calculating an index using data from the Kaiser Family Foundation’s State Profiles for Women’s Health and CDC data. Each state was given a score out of 100, with more points given to states with lower percentages of women reporting fair or poor health status, poor mental health status, being uninsured (up to 20), being diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer, dying due to heart disease (up to 10), receiving inadequate prenatal care, and higher rates of seniors being up-to-date on preventative services available to them (up to 5).

    Is your state doing the most to protect your health or that of your loved ones? Read on to find out.

  • #51. Alabama

    Women's health score: 54.5

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 24% (Rank: #47)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 42% (Rank: #41)

    Women uninsured: 12% (Rank: #42)

    Breast cancer incidence: 123.3 per 100,000 women (Rank: #40)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 11.2 per 100,000 women (Rank: #45)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 181.9 per 100,000 women (Rank: #47)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 17.8% (Rank: #43)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 42.2% (Rank: #48)

    Alabama’s health system as a whole is struggling, in part due to its failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and its rural location. Studies have shown that expanding Medicaid would benefit women in particular by reducing the rate of uninsured women and giving them access to reproductive care that previous insurance plans were not required to provide. Recently, the state’s attempt to ban the most common method of second-trimester abortion was overturned by a U.S. appeals court, a case reproductive rights advocates saw as a victory for women’s health.

  • #50. Arkansas

    Women's health score: 55

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 26% (Rank: #50)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 42% (Rank: #43)

    Women uninsured: 10% (Rank: #38)

    Breast cancer incidence: 117.1 per 100,000 women (Rank: #25)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 12.0 per 100,000 women (Rank: #50)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 175.1 per 100,000 women (Rank: #46)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 23.0% (Rank: #51)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 48.0% (Rank: #33)

    Arkansas has recently implemented laws that encourage breastfeeding and provide local health units offering prenatal services to women regardless of their ability to pay. These units were set up to combat the number of women who currently receive poor prenatal care. However, the state’s high rates of obesity increase the rates of women's death related to heart disease. Also, cancer patients in Arkansas are more likely to die than those in other states because of the state’s high poverty and poor access to transportation in its many rural areas.

  • #49. West Virginia

    Women's health score: 55.1

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 27% (Rank: #51)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 41% (Rank: #36)

    Women uninsured: 10% (Rank: #36)

    Breast cancer incidence: 119.6 per 100,000 women (Rank: #31)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 12.4 per 100,000 women (Rank: #51)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 155.7 per 100,000 women (Rank: #42)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 14.0% (Rank: #20)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 39.0% (Rank: #50)

    West Virginia made the news earlier this year when one of its two abortion clinics closed. The opioid crisis has also hit the state hard, and the rate of overdose deaths in women is almost double that of men. Recovery from addiction is made more difficult by a lack of access to mental health services. This is particularly worrying in a state that has suffered the collapse of the coal industry and other local economies.

  • #48. Louisiana

    Women's health score: 55.2

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 24% (Rank: #46)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 43% (Rank: #48)

    Women uninsured: 12% (Rank: #43)

    Breast cancer incidence: 126.7 per 100,000 women (Rank: #43)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 10.2 per 100,000 women (Rank: #28)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 169.3 per 100,000 women (Rank: #45)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 16.4% (Rank: #36)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 45.0% (Rank: #43)

    After being ranked last in women’s health in 2015 by America’s Health Rating, and being given an F rating in 2016 by the Institute for Women’s Health Policy Research, Louisiana expanded Medicaid in hopes of enabling more women to access preventative care that they otherwise might have to forgo due to cost. Tulane University also hosted its 3rd Biennial Black Women’s Health Conference, which aims reduce health disparities between white and black women.

  • #47. Mississippi

    Women's health score: 56.2

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 26% (Rank: #49)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 40% (Rank: #28)

    Women uninsured: 15% (Rank: #48)

    Breast cancer incidence: 117.3 per 100,000 women (Rank: #26)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 9.0 per 100,000 women (Rank: #13)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 187.1 per 100,000 women (Rank: #48)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 13.2% (Rank: #18)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 46.1% (Rank: #40)

    Mississippi is the state with the most abortion restrictions. A law was recently signed banning abortions any later than 15 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual cycle. The state’s one remaining clinic filed a lawsuit against this and other restrictive laws. The Women’s Health Foundation of Mississippi aims to reduce poverty and increases a woman’s positive health outcomes by working with teenagers to prevent teen pregnancy, inform them about sexual health, and give them access to higher education.

  • #46. Tennessee

    Women's health score: 56.3

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 22% (Rank: #45)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 41% (Rank: #35)

    Women uninsured: 13% (Rank: #45)

    Breast cancer incidence: 122.2 per 100,000 women (Rank: #38)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 10.6 per 100,000 women (Rank: #34)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 162.8 per 100,000 women (Rank: #44)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 16.2% (Rank: #35)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 40.7% (Rank: #49)

    Tennessee’s high rates of maternal mortality, excessive drinking, and obesity all contribute to the state’s consistently low rankings in women’s health. Organizations like Tennessee Women’s Care are working to improve access and care. In particular, the group has teamed up with Saint Thomas Hospital to expand its reach and integrate more services.

  • #45. Oklahoma

    Women's health score: 57

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 22% (Rank: #44)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 40% (Rank: #27)

    Women uninsured: 12% (Rank: #40)

    Breast cancer incidence: 121.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #37)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 10.6 per 100,000 women (Rank: #33)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 188.6 per 100,000 women (Rank: #49)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 17.8% (Rank: #44)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 47.6% (Rank: #36)

    Oklahoma has made cuts to health care providers, increased co-pays for SoonerCare (the state’s name for Medicaid), and cut funding for suicide-prevention initiatives and to community health care in underserved areas. In a more progressive move, Oklahoma’s Supreme Court in 2016 blocked a law that would have allowed law enforcement to enact heavy criminal penalties on health care clinics providing abortion services to women.

  • #44. Kentucky

    Women's health score: 58

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 25% (Rank: #48)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 42% (Rank: #42)

    Women uninsured: 8% (Rank: #33)

    Breast cancer incidence: 126.8 per 100,000 women (Rank: #44)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 10.6 per 100,000 women (Rank: #36)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 157.0 per 100,000 women (Rank: #43)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 14.0% (Rank: #21)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 45.0% (Rank: #42)

    Like many rural areas, Kentucky struggles with enabling equal access to health services for those in fringe parts of the state. To combat this, several centers that focus specifically on women’s health have opened—including a women’s center in the Topeka Department of Veterans Affairs and a specialty OB-GYN clinic.

  • #43. Texas

    Women's health score: 59.1

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 21% (Rank: #42)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 37% (Rank: #13)

    Women uninsured: 19% (Rank: #50)

    Breast cancer incidence: 112.2 per 100,000 women (Rank: #14)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 10.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #32)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 133.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #34)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 22.4% (Rank: #49)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 46.9% (Rank: #37)

    Texas defunded Planned Parenthood in 2013, leaving many low-income women without reproductive care and other health services. The program created to fill this gap, Texas Healthy Women, has not achieved that goal: Almost half the centers in the network didn't see any patients in 2017’s fiscal year.

  • #42. Illinois

    Women's health score: 59.2

    Women reporting fair or poor health status: 19% (Rank: #35)

    Women reporting poor mental health status: 42% (Rank: #40)

    Women uninsured: 10% (Rank: #37)

    Breast cancer incidence: 134.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #50)

    Ovarian cancer incidence: 11.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #48)

    Deaths due to heart disease: 133.5 per 100,000 women (Rank: #35)

    Women receiving inadequate prenatal care: 14.8% (Rank: #25)

    Women ages 65+ up to date on key preventative services: 42.7% (Rank: #47)

    Illinois has implemented the Breast and Cervical Cancer Program to offer women mammograms, breast exams, pelvic exams, and Pap smears in the hopes of catching and treating health issues early on. The state also hosted the Be Aware Women’s Fair, designed to raise awareness about different issues in women’s health.

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