Report: Racial and Ethnic Disparities Among Women at the State Level

By Christine Cupaiuolo — June 22, 2009

kaiser_health_disparitiesKaiser Family Foundation has released an important package of resources that shines a spotlight on health disparities between white women and women of color in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.,

The report, “Putting Women’s Health Care Disparities On The Map: Examining Racial and Ethnic Disparities at the State Level,” takes into account 25 indicators, including rates of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, AIDS and cancer, and access to health insurance and health screenings.

The states with the largest rate of disparities were Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana and South Dakota. States such as Virginia, Maryland, Georgia and Hawaii showed relatively smaller disparities between women of color and white women on health outcomes and health care access.

The reports also notes that white women and minority women were doing similarly well in Maine — and similarly poorly in Kentucky and West Virginia.

This introductory page includes links to the full report and numerous documents that look closely at health status, access to health care, social determinants and workforce statistics.

Among the key findings:

Disparities existed in every state on most measures. Women of color fared worse than White women across a broad range of measures in almost every state, and in some states these disparities were quite stark. Some of the largest disparities were in the rates of new AIDS cases, late or no prenatal care, no insurance coverage, and lack of a high school diploma.

In states where disparities appeared to be smaller, this difference was often due to the fact that both White women and women of color were doing poorly. It is important to also recognize that in many states (e.g. West Virginia and Kentucky) all women, including White women, faced significant challenges and may need assistance.

Few states had consistently high or low disparities across all three dimensions. Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and Hawaii all scored better than average on all three dimensions. At the other end of the spectrum, Montana, South Dakota, Indiana, and several states in the South Central region of the country (Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi) were far below average on all dimensions.

States with small disparities in access to care were not necessarily the same states with small disparities in health status or social determinants. While access to care and social factors are critical components of health status, our report indicates that they are not the only critical components. For example, in the District of Columbia disparities in access to care were better than average, but the District had the highest disparity scores for many indicators of health and social determinants.

Each racial and ethnic group faced its own particular set of health and health care challenges.

The enormous health and socioeconomic challenges that many American Indian and Alaska Native women faced was striking. American Indian and Alaska Native women had higher rates of health and access challenges than women in other racial and ethnic groups on several indicators, often twice as high as White women. Even on indicators that had relatively low levels of disparity for all groups, such as number of days that women reported their health was “not good,” the rate was markedly higher among American Indian and Alaska Native women.


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