Pennsylvania Ranks Low on Women’s Health and Safety

Woman RunningA new state-by-state analysis finds that Pennsylvania received a grade of C- on women’s health & well-being and a C on women’s reproductive rights. In addition, the findings suggest that violence continues to affect many women in the state. The analysis was released by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) as part of its Status of Women in the States 2015 series. The reports find large disparities across the states and among racial/ethnic groups when it comes to women’s health and safety.

Since 2004, Pennsylvania has declined on the women’s Health & Well-Being composite index and currently ranks 31 among the states. During that same timeframe, Pennsylvania has had a decrease in the number of deaths from breast cancer but has had an increase in the number of deaths from lung cancer. There are also significant racial disparities in women’s health & well-being in the state. Black women have higher mortality rates from heart disease and breast cancer than white women. Black women also have higher rates of diabetes than white women (14.4 percent vs. 10.1 percent), and are more likely to be overweight or obese than white women (72.6 percent vs. 57.6 percent).

Women in Pennsylvania experience more days per month with poor mental health than men; 4.6 days for women compared with 3.3 days for men. However, this number has decreased, since 2000, when women in Pennsylvania reported 3.9 days of poor mental health per month. Native American women report more mentally unhealthy days per month than white women are more likely to have their activity limited by their health than white women in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania ranks 31 on the Reproductive Rights Composite Index which incorporates policies that improve access to abortion and contraception, same-sex couples’ parental rights, infertility coverage, and sex education. The state’s grade has improved since 2004, the last time the Reproductive Rights composite index was calculated for the state.

“Equitable access to health care is critical to ensuring that Pennsylvania’s women are able to thrive economically and participate fully in community life,” said Janice R. Black, President and CEO, The Foundation for Enhancing Communities. “We must focus more intensively on addressing the striking racial disparities in health outcomes experienced by women in the state.”

The Foundation for Enhancing Communities is helping to improve the odds for women through its Women’s Fund, one of several sponsors of the IWPR’s Status of Women in the States: 2015 report. Since 2008, the Women’s Fund has granted $79,429 to nonprofit organizations in the South Central Pennsylvania counties of Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, and Perry, and the Dillsburg Area serving women and girls. The grants focused on issues of self-sufficiency, health and human services, and education. Data obtained from the Status of Women in the States report will be used to better align the grantmaking resources of the Women’s Fund to match the community’s needs and to educate our local community on the current needs of women and girls.

You can help make a difference for women in South Central PA by joining the Dream Team of the Women’s Fund. For $16.66 a month, you can give the gift of hope to women and girls in the South Central Pennsylvania counties of Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lebanon, and Perry, and the Dillsburg Area. Make your pledge today of $1,000 or $16.66 per month for 5 years to become a member of the Dream Team. To start your Dream Team pledge or learn more about the Women’s Fund, please visit www.tfec.org/Womens-Fund.

Other indicators of women’s health and well-being status in Pennsylvania compared to the other states and the District of Columbia:

  • 46.7% of women report exercising at least 150 minutes per week
  • 18.7% report eating enough daily servings of fruits and vegetables
  • 12.1% of women report binge drinking (consuming four or more drinks on at least one occasion) in the past month
  • 19.9% of women in the state report having smoked at least some days in their lifetime

Other indicators of women’s reproductive rights in Pennsylvania compared to the other states and the District of Columbia:

  • Percent of low birth-weight for babies (less than 5 lbs., 8 oz.)
    • All women: 8.0%
    • White women: 6.8%
    • Hispanic women: 8.4%
    • Black women: 12.7%
  • Average infant mortality rate (deaths of infants under age one per 1,00 live births)
    • All women: 7.0 births per 1,000 live births
    • White women: 5.4 births per 1,000 live births
    • Hispanic women: 7.6 births per 1,000 live births
    • Black women: 12.7 births per 1,000 live births
    • Asian/Pacific Island women: 3.9 births per 1,000 live births
    • Native American women: N/A
  • Health insurance coverage rates (2013)
    • All women: 87.9%
    • White women: 89.8%
    • Hispanic women: 75.5%
    • Black women: 82.5%
    • Asian/Pacific Islander women: 83.0%
    • Native American women: 83.8%

Health & Well-Being, Reproductive Rights, and Violence & Safety are the latest in a series of releases IWPR’s Status of Women in the States: 2015 project. In March 2015, IWPR released the data on women’s employment and earnings by state, including projections on when women in each state would receive equal pay. Throughout the spring, IWPR will release additional reports with state-level data on Political Participation and Work & Family on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. Since the first Status of Women in the States, the reports have been used to increase community and private investment in programs and policies that improve outcomes for women throughout the United States. Visit www.tfec.org/status-of-women for more information about the Status of Women in the States project and upcoming releases.