Friday, May 7, 2004

Isles pass women’s
health study

Overall, however, the national report
shows the outlook is "grim"

Hawaii ranks sixth in the nation for meeting the health needs of women, according to a study by the National Women's Law Center and Oregon Health & Science University.

Hawaii was first in the study for the lowest coronary heart disease and breast cancer death rates, the least arthritis and obesity and fewest women without access to abortion providers. Other firsts were in years of life expectancy, and a low 2.7 percent of women reporting poor mental health in the 30 days before the survey.

Although Hawaii was one of eight states receiving "satisfactory minus," the highest grade given, Dr. Linda Rosen, state Health Department deputy director, said: "But living in Hawaii, wouldn't you expect us to be healthiest? We should definitely be No. 1 in physical activity, with the best weather and physical environment."

So while Hawaii women have good health in some areas, she said: "We certainly can expect better. I don't think the cardiovascular rate will hold up if we don't make some changes with the new generation coming up."

Rosen suggested that Hawaii's older generation of women might be responsible for some of Hawaii's health showings because of different eating habits and physical activity.

The islands' 610,800 women also scored last among states in colorectal cancer screening between ages 50 and 64 and ranked 43rd in getting mammograms between ages 40 and 64.

They had a failing grade, placing 39th in the country, when it comes to eating five fruits and vegetables a day. And they were 43rd for annual dental visits.

The number of Hawaii women living below the federal poverty level and earning lower wages than men also brought failing grades.

No state received an overall satisfactory rating in the report released yesterday.

Minnesota ranked first overall, followed by Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Colorado, Utah, Maine and Washington. Six states had failing grades.

"The outlook for women's health is grim and nowhere near approaching the nation's goals for 2010 set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Healthy People initiative," said Dr. Michelle Berlin, associate professor at the Oregon university.

The nation was graded unsatisfactory for meeting only two of 27 health status benchmarks based on the goals -- the percentage of women getting regular mammograms and going to the dentist.

Hawaii women also have health disparities that do not show up in the national data because Asian-Pacific Islanders are lumped together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rosen noted.

She stressed the importance of starting a healthy lifestyle early but said: "It's never too late to quit smoking, to get active and lose weight. If we can build healthy activities in the beginning, it makes a much, much healthier, longer life."


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