Double Dose: Disparities in Health Care; Legal Ramifications of Same-Sex Marriage; On Becoming a Woman; Abstinence-Only Supporters Push On; Sexually Harassed? Raise Your Hand

By Christine Cupaiuolo — June 8, 2008

Wide Disparities in Health Care by Race and Region: “Race and place of residence can have a staggering impact on the course and quality of the medical treatment a patient receives, according to new research showing that blacks with diabetes or vascular disease are nearly five times more likely than whites to have a leg amputated and that women in Mississippi are far less likely to have mammograms than those in Maine,” reports The New York Times.

The study was conducted by researchers at Dartmouth and was commissioned by the nation’s largest health-related philanthropy, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which announced a three-year, $300 million initiative intended to narrow health care disparities across lines of race and geography.

Repairing the Damage, Before Roe: “With the Supreme Court becoming more conservative, many people who support women’s right to choose an abortion fear that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that gave them that right, is in danger of being swept aside,” writes Waldo L. Fielding in this op-ed. “When such fears arise, we often hear about the pre-Roe ‘bad old days.’ Yet there are few physicians today who can relate to them from personal experience. I can.” Read on.

Legal Effects of Marriage for Same-Sex Couples: The San Francisco Chronicle has a comprehensive run-down of the legal and financial changes same-sex couples face if they get married in California.

Plus: What happens to the status of couples already married if the November initiative to ban same-sex marriage passes? Expect heavy litigation and a decision ultimately decided by the California Supreme Court, says UCLA law professor Brad Sears.

Paying for Health Care in Retirement – Good Luck: “I write about health care, and still the realization hit me like a ton of bricks today after I put down a just-released report from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. None of the presidential candidates have been talking about how to fix Medicare," writes Judith Graham at the Chicago Tribune.

Here’s the sobering EBRI report (PDF), effectively titled: “Savings Needed to Fund Health Insurance and Health Care Expenses in Retirement: Findings from a Simulation Model.”

On Becoming a Woman: In case you were looking for some, er, real-life advice, Blinky has excerpts from this 1950’s guide. Here’s analysis from Echidne, who calls it “a fascinating trip into the sexual politics of the past.”

“On the other hand,” she adds, “almost everything in those excerpts is advocated in this country somewhere, right this very moment. Abstinence is the responsibility of girls, for example. Women gentle and home-directed while men are strong and outer-directed? I was just told this by a liberal guy.”

Speaking of Abstinence: The National Abstinence Education Association has launched a $1 million campaign to recruit 1 million parents to “lobby local schools to adopt sex education programs focusing on abstinence and to work to elect local, state and national officials who support the approach,” reports the Washington Post.

The campaign comes as Congress is debating whether to authorize about $190 million in federal funding for such programs, which have come under increasing criticism because of a series of reports that concluded they are ineffective. Such criticism has prompted at least 17 states to refuse federal funding for such programs.

The group hopes to counter that trend, in part with a provocative video that asserts that comprehensive sex education encourages sexual activity by teenagers and a Web site that offers advice to parents about sex education.

Plus: Five days later, the same WaPo reporter, Rob Stein, wrote a page-one story about a new study by the Centers for Disease Control that found “a decade-long decline in sexual activity among high school students leveled off between 2001 and 2007, and that the rise in condom use by teens flattened out in 2003.”

The new figures renewed the heated debate about sex-education classes that focus on abstinence until marriage, which began receiving federal funding during the period covered by the latest survey and have come under increasing criticism that they are ineffective.

“Since we’ve started pushing abstinence, we have seen no change in the numbers on sexual activity,” said John Santelli, chairman of the department of population and family health at Columbia University. “The other piece of it is: Abstinence education spends a good amount of time bashing condoms. So it’s not surprising, if that’s the message young people are getting, that we’re seeing condom use start to decrease.”

Not surprisingly, proponents of abstinence-only programs blamed comprehensive sex-ed.

Hands Up if You’ve Experienced Street Harassment: The F-Word is gathering comments here, in response to comments here.

Breast Cancer News from ASCO Conference: Several breast cancer-related studies presented at the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology conference in Chicago are summarized here by Daily Women’s Health Policy Report. Meeting abstracts from the conference are available here.

Eat Locally, Think …: “The local food movement typically has been about improving the health of the planet,” writes Tara Parker-Pope. “But now researchers are trying to find out if eating locally farmed food is also better for your health. A team of researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a grant to study the public health impact of moving toward a local, sustainable food system.”

Chicago can’t hold a carrot stick to California when it comes to the availability of locally grown produce, but the farmers markets rock during the summer and fall. How ’bout where you live?

If I Could Be Anywhere Right Now: It would be here.

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