The 2009 North Carolina Women's Health Report Card: Good news, bad news and some hopeful news

The Report Card is prepared every two years by The Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC.

The good news: fewer women are smoking; more women are receiving screening tests necessary for early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer. Fewer women are dying from heart disease and stroke, and the number of women age 65+ receiving annual flu shots increased substantially.

The hopeful news: rates of heart disease and stroke deaths continue to decline, but remain higher than national targets set by Healthy People 2010.  More women are receiving breast cancer screening, but this is balanced by the fact that nearly one in six women eligible for mammography has not been screened in the last two years. Overall, NC women showed a 9 percent improvement among women 18+ who met the minimum physical activity requirements, yet 40 percent of NC women are still not meeting the minimum target of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. 

Areas needing attention: barriers to health care are worsening for poor and minority women with approximately 16 percent of all NC women and over 60% of Hispanic women in the State lacking health insurance coverage. The percentage of NC women with high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity continues to increase. High cholesterol in African-American women increased by 24 percent and obesity among Hispanic women increased by 43 percent.  Almost 40 percent of NC women have not had a Pap test to screen for cervical cancer in the last two years.   

Overall, the report card shows that minority women continue to be disproportionately affected by chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease and strokes.  Grades of A, B, C, D and F are assigned based on improvements or declines in several indicators for women's health including chronic disease, preventive health practices, reproductive health, and minority health disparities.  

New features to the report card this year include a health indicator on breastfeeding, breakdown of the health data for American Indian women and a separate insert that looks at women’s health by State region (Western, Piedmont and Eastern).  “Breaking this information down by regions enables us to identify health disparities and needs for women in specific areas of the state, so that they can be better addressed by local officials, community agencies,  and health care providers,” said Carol Lorenz, Associate Director of the Center for Women’s Health Research.

The Report Card was released in April at the North Carolina Legislative Building in Raleigh.  Featured speakers included legislative sponsors State Senator Katie Dorsett and State Representative Verla Insko.  There was wide distribution to medical and public health professionals, policy makers, researchers and women's health advocacy groups throughout the State.

The Report Card is prepared every two years by The Center for Women’s Health Research at UNC using data compiled from State health behavior surveys, vital statistics, disease reporting systems, and US Census Bureau reports.  The non-profit Center serves the women of North Carolina by documenting the health status of NC women through the Report Card to target research efforts that need the most attention.  Current target areas include preterm birth, obesity and the associated conditions of hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, and gynecologic cancers such as ovarian, uterine, cervical, and endometrial cancer. 

Copies are free and available for download at the Center’s website at www.cwhr.unc.edu, by email request to cwhr@unc.edu or by calling Diana Urlaub, Project Manager at (919) 843-1277.