May 11, 2015 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has released a new Status of Women in the States report that show how women’s health has improved, or not, on a variety of different measures. It’s no surprise that they found disparities both between states and between racial and ethnic groups.

A news release notes both good news and bad. Women’s mortality rates from heart disease, lung cancer, and breast cancer have declined since 2004, but black women are more than twice as likely to die from heart disease than the group with the lowest rate (Asian/Pacific Islander women). Fewer than half of US women report that they get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. And then there are the disturbing statistics on violence:

Nearly one in three women experiences physical violence perpetrated by an intimate partner at some point in her lifetime. More than one in eight teenage girls who dated or went out with someone in the past 12 months experienced physical dating violence, and one in seven girls experienced sexual dating violence. Nearly one in five women in the United States is raped at some time in her life, and four in five female rape victims were first raped before the age of 25.

Experience with violence varies by race, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Over half of Native American and multiracial women have experienced physical violence by an intimate partner, compared with less than one in three white and Hispanic women, and less than one in five Asian/Pacific Islander women.

IWPR has created a Health & Well-Being composite index that includes mortality from heart disease, lung cancer, and breast cancer; incidence of diabetes, chlamydia, and AIDS; suicide mortality rate; and the mean number of days in the past 30 with poor mental health or limited activities. The states with the best scores are Minnesota, Hawaii, North Dakota, Utah, and Nebraska. The worst scores are for Arkansas, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi.

The Reproductive Rights index includes laws and policies, such as whether each state requires parental notification and/or consent for minors seeking abortions, has a waiting period prior to abortion services, provides public funding for abortion, requires health insurers to cover infertility treatments, recognizes same-sex marriage or allows second-parent adoption, and requires schools to provide sex education. Other indicators are the percent of women living in counties with an abortion provider, whether the state has a pro-choice governor and legislature, and whether the state has adopted the Medicaid expansion or expanded eligibility for Medicaid family-planning services. Oregon, Vermont, Maryland, New Jersey, and Hawaii have the highest scores in this category, while the lowest scores are in Tennessee, Idaho, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.

To rank states’ performance on Poverty & Opportunity, IWPR examined the percent of men and women who have health insurance, have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, own businesses, and have incomes above the poverty level. The District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Hawaii earned the top scores, while the bottom slots on the ranked list go to Louisiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Arkansas, and Mississippi.

Report cards for each state and DC assign letter grades to each of the six categories the report examines. Visit to see how your state compares.


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