Women of color account for approximately one-third of all adult women in the U.S. Yet compared to women who are members of the white majority, minority women continue to bear a disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality from a wide range of health problems–from heart disease, lung cancer, breast cancer and HIV/AIDS to suicide and lack of adequate medical insurance.

This is a key finding of the new third edition of The Women’s Health Data Book: A Profile of Women’s Health in the United States, published jointly by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health (JIWH) and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The book draws on a variety of federal studies and independent medical research to measure the nation’s progress in addressing women’s health issues and reducing racial and ethnic health disparities.

The report emphasizes that women of color generally continue to be more economically disadvantaged than white women–a key factor associated with poorer health status and barriers to care. More than one fourth of African-American women and Hispanic women, as well as 21% of Native American women and 13% of Asian/Pacific Islander women, currently live in poverty, compared to only 9% of white females.

Furthermore, more than one third of Hispanic women (37%) and nearly one quarter of black and Asian/Pacific Islander women (23% and 24%, respectively) lack health insurance coverage. In contrast, only 13% of Caucasian women are uninsured. Compared to those with health coverage, uninsured women are four times less likely to see a medical specialist when needed and are three times less likely to fill a prescription because of the cost.

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Other minority health disparities revealed in the book include:

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• African-American women are at particularly high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in part due to a high proportion of such factors as hypertension and obesity.
• Women now account for 23% of all new AIDS cases–up from only 7% in 1986– with black and Hispanic women at the highest risk (see chart). Among women 25 to 44 years old, AIDS is the third leading cause of death for African Americans, the fourth leading cause for Hispanics and the tenth for white women.
• Hispanic teenage girls in grades 9 through 12 report high rates of attempted suicide (18.9%), compared to 9% for white female teens and 7.5% for black high school-age girls.

For more detailed data from the new Women’s Health Data Book, read the complete report available online at www.kff.org/women or www.jiwh.org. Bound copies of the book can also be purchased from either of these Web sites.
 

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