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For Immediate Release:
March 03, 2010
For more information contact:
Public Health Communications
(213) 240-8144

Ethnicity, economy and environment play strong roles in health inequities among women in LA County
New report on women's health highlights unique health care needs and challenges

LOS ANGELES - There are large disparities in health, health risks, and preventable disease among different groups of women in Los Angeles County, according to a new report titled Health Indicators for Women in Los Angeles County: Highlighting Disparities by Ethnicity and Poverty Level. Overall, African American women have the poorest health, but other racial and ethnic groups each bear disproportionate burdens for some risk factors and/or diseases. The report, compiled by the Department of Public Health's Office of Women's Health and Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology, contains the latest data on access to health care, health behavior, social and physical environment, and incidence and mortality rates. It also shows that women have unique health care needs reflective of their complex and challenging socioeconomic status and biological makeup.

"Women often make the health care decisions for their families and are the primary caregivers when a family member falls ill. Therefore, the health of women affects not only the individual, but her family and her community," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "Reports such as this present relevant data on health inequities among women that will drive policies, programs and initiatives to address the most pressing needs. By creating awareness of the impact of health inequities on women, their families and their communities, strategies can be devised to begin closing those gaps."

Based on recommendations from the 2007 Los Angeles County Women's Health Policy Summit, the Health Indicators for Women in Los Angeles County: Highlighting Disparities by Ethnicity and Poverty Level report also focuses on issues unique to women 65 years and older, women with a disability, women with different sexual orientations, and the effect of insurance status on women's health.

"This report is meant to inform key stakeholders, legislators, decision-makers, and funders on the priority areas of women's health, and assist in the building of multi-cultural women's health policies, programs and services," said Ellen Eidem, MS, Director, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Office of Women's Health. "Working together, we can address the inequities in women's health and ultimately improve the health of all women."

Among the report's findings:

  • African American women have far higher mortality rates from many chronic diseases. For example, whites have a higher incidence of breast cancer but African Americans have the highest mortality rate. Yet African Americans report better access to health care and higher self-rated health. Emerging evidence shows that factors such as racial inequality, discrimination, and stress may be important contributors to these and other health disparities.
  • Latinas report the poorest self-rated health status among all ethnic groups. In addition, compared to all other groups, they report poorer access to care with over a third lacking health insurance, and 40% reporting difficulty accessing medical care. Contributing factors include a high level of poverty and low level of education. Latinas had disproportionately higher death rates from diabetes with 31 per 100,000, compared to 21 per 100,000 for all women in Los Angeles County.
  • Asian/Pacific Islander women report low rates of preventive services and having a regular source of care. Although this has not translated to poorer health outcomes, it points to the unique cultural and linguistic barriers that Asian/Pacific Islander women face in accessing health care and serves as a sign of potential worsening disparities in the coming years.
  • Socio-economic status or poverty level is directly linked to health outcomes and a significant source of health disparities. Women living in households less than 100% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are four times more likely to report fair or poor health status, compared to women living at or greater than 300% FPL.
  • 41% of women aged 65 years and older report living with a disability.
  • Nearly 25% of women 65 years and older living in households with income less than 200% of the federal poverty level report being food insecure (inability to afford enough food).
  • 70% of lesbian and bisexual women report discrimination due to sexual orientation. Almost 24% of lesbian and bisexual women reported being diagnosed with major depression in the past year compared to 11% of heterosexual women.
  • Women with disabilities are more likely to experience violence and have higher rates of obesity, diabetes and frequent mental distress.
  • A lower percentage of uninsured women (54%) had a mammogram in the past 2 years compared to 68% of women with Medi-Cal and 79% of women with private insurance.
  • About the report:

    The full 2010 report is available online at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/owh/. The 2007 Health Indicators for Women: Highlighting Disparities by Ethnicity and Insurance Status report is available at http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/wwwfiles/ph/programs/owh/F inalDataReport.pdf.

    Data sources for the report include the LA County Health Survey, other Public Health Department programs, California Health Interview Survey, the LA County Cancer Surveillance Program, and the California Quality of Life Survey II (Cal-QOL2).

    A panel discussion was held on Wednesday, March 3, 2010, highlighting the good and bad news regarding womens health in Los Angeles County, as well as strategies, initiatives and programs that focus on reducing disparities across ethnic and geographic lines. Participants included:

  • Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, director of Public Health and Health Officer for Los Angeles County;
  • Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, PhD, RN, professor, UCLA School of Public Health and Department of Asian-American Studies;
  • Vickie Mays, PhD, MSPH, professor, Department of Psychology and Health Services, UCLA School of Public Health, director of the UCLA Center on Research, Education, Training and Strategic Communications on Minority Health Disparities;
  • Beatriz Solis, PhD, MPH, director, Healthy Communities South Region, The California Endowment;
  • Rita Singhal, MD, MPH, medical director of the Office of Women's Health.
  • The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and has an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health and the work we do, please visit http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit our YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/lapublichealth, or follow us on Twitter: @LAPublicHealth.


    Related Information Site(s): Office of Women's Health |