For every step forward the United States takes toward improving women's health, the country appears to be taking one back — or more.
The overall picture is so bad that the nation got a big, black "Unsatisfactory" grade on a report card issued recently by the National Women's Law Center, in conjunction with Oregon Health & Science University.
We are doing all right in some areas. Women are smoking less. The percentage of women getting regular mammograms, annual dental checkups and colorectal screenings has held steady since 2007. In only one area, cholesterol screenings, have we actually improved.
On the negative side, more women are binge drinking, and fewer are getting Pap screening tests for cervical cancer. More women are obese, diabetic and hypertensive, too. More are turning up with chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease.
Not a single state got a "Satisfactory" mark this year; in 2007, three states made the grade. Massachusetts and Vermont have the best scores, a limp S (for satisfactory) -minus.
Many of the goals have to do with things people can conceivably control themselves, like quitting smoking, and drinking only moderately.
However, nearly 20 percent of women ages 18 to 64 have no health insurance. The disparities are troubling: 38 percent of Hispanic women, 32 percent of Native American women, 23 percent of African-American women — but only 14 percent of Caucasian women — lack health coverage.
And only seven states now require comprehensive maternity care — prenatal care, childbirth and postpartum care — be included in all individual and group health plans.
Most of the goals the report card addresses come from the Healthy People 2010 campaign of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services. On its website, Healthy People is already hoping for better results in 2020, its new goal year.
"The Favorite" by Leon-Francois Comerre, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons