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The state of women’s health in Tennessee continues to improve in many areas, according to a Tennessee Women’s Health Report Card, released recently. The take home message: Women’s health is moving in the right direction, but there’s much more work to be done.
The report card, last issued in 2011, provides a comprehensive picture of the status of the state’s more than 3 million women. The report card gives grades A-F, looking at a five-year span of data about reproductive health, leading causes of death, modifiable risk behaviors, preventive health practices and barriers to health.
Overall, women’s health in the state received a grade of C, up from a D in the previous report card – a move in the right direction, Vanderbilt preventive health experts say.
A collaborative effort of the Vanderbilt Institute for Medicine and Public Health, Meharry Medical College, East Tennessee State University, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the Tennessee Department of Health, the report card highlights areas that need attention, especially in supporting lifestyle changes to prevent long-term health consequences.
But this year the group wanted to focus on the positives, especially a 25 percent decrease in the state’s infant mortality rate. “The decline is real, persistent and likely to continue. This improvement reflects concerted community, public health and prenatal care efforts around the state,” said Katherine Hartmann, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and deputy director of Vanderbilt’s Institute for Medicine and Public Health. The report card issued a B grade overall for infant deaths per 1,000 live births, although African-Americans still received an F. “The declining number of infant deaths is promising, dropping from 16.8 to 12.8 in a five-year span,” she said. “That’s well above what we think it can be, but headed briskly in the right direction.”
The report card team notes that women in the state can change grades for the next report card by focusing on preventive behaviors, such as getting exercise, quitting smoking, eating right, decreasing alcohol use, and staying up-to-date on preventive care, including immunization.
Some of the continuing areas of concern include:
Percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy – Grade: F
Sexually transmitted infections (Chlamydia and latent, primary and secondary syphilis), cases per 100,000 women. Grade: F
Breast and cervical cancer deaths in African-American women. Grade: F
Heart disease deaths and stroke deaths per 100,000 women. Grade: F
Percentage of white women (18 and older) with modifiable risk behaviors such as diabetes (Grade C) and high cholesterol (Grade F).