Health Disparities in Minority Women Vary by Ethnic Group


WASHINGTON — More programs need to be developed to address the specific health needs of minority women, Elena Cohen said during the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association.

“Racial minorities are projected to make up almost half the population by 2050,” said Ms. Cohen, who is senior counsel at the nonprofit National Women's Law Center.

“But there's not much analysis of [health data on] racial and ethnic groups by gender.”

To further examine the issue, researchers at the center analyzed data on women's health from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The center's report, which is entitled “Making the Grade on Women's Health,” outlines disparities in women's health care in different states.

For example, black women have the highest rate of Pap smears and the lowest rate of osteoporosis, compared with other groups, but they also have the shortest life expectancy and the highest poverty rate, and they are least likely to get prenatal care.

They also have the highest mortality rates for coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and the highest incidence of AIDS and lung cancer, Ms. Cohen noted during the meeting.

For their part, Latinas have the lowest mortality rate from stroke, but they are the second-least likely group to be screened for cervical cancer, and they fare worse than other groups in cervical cancer incidence and mortality, Ms. Cohen said.

This group has the highest percentage of uninsured women and the highest percentage of women who do no physical activity in their leisure time, “which is very important for obesity issues.”

American Indian and Alaskan Native women had the second-lowest morality rate from stroke, but they fared worst of all groups for smoking, binge drinking, mortality from cirrhosis, and violence against them, Ms. Cohen said.

“The Asian-American/Pacific Islander group fared best in preventive health behaviors and in avoiding obesity and smoking, but these women do have other issues,” she added.

According to the report, those issues are cervical and ovarian cancer, which disproportionately affect these women, who are also the second-least likely group to have had a mammogram within the last 2 years.

Because each group's problems are different, identifying useful interventions for minority women can be tricky, but it needs to be done, she said.

“One way is to encourage research that is analyzed and reported by race and ethnicity, and then further by gender. Another idea is to develop targeted programs to address ethnic and racial issues,” Ms. Cohen said.

The report, which is titled “Making the Grade on Women's Health,” is available on the Internet

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