on Violence Against Women 800 K Street, N.W., Suite 920
Washington, DC 20530
(202) 307-6026 phone
(202) 307-3911 fax
(202) 307-2277 TTY
National Sexual Violence
123 North Enola Drive
Enola, Pennsylvania 17025
reproductive capacity plays an important role in shaping their lives and health
experiences. According to the National
Women’s Health Information Center
over 80 percent of all American women have had a child by the age of 45,
and the average woman has 2.2 children. While motherhood is a defining feature
of adult life for many women, most spend the greater part of their reproductive
years trying to avoid pregnancy. Sixty-four percent of women ages 15 to 44 use
some form of contraception, up from 56 percent in 1982 and 60 percent in 1988.
health is not only an important component of women’s health during their
reproductive years, but throughout the course of their lives. The average woman
spends a third of her life beyond menopause. While many older women mistakenly
believe that regular gynecological exams are no longer necessary, this is
precisely the point in life when they are at higher risk for cancers of the
reproductive system and other gynecological problems such as uterine prolapse (O'Rourke, 2004).
Younger women are
particularly at risk for reproductive health problems associated with sexually
transmitted diseases (STDs). Two-thirds of all STD cases occur among
individuals younger than 25 years, and one in four teenagers’ contracts an STD
each year. Women are more susceptible biologically to becoming infected with
STDs than are men, and younger women are more at risk than their older
counterparts due to differences in their cervical anatomy. Women are less
likely than men to experience symptoms of STD infection. In addition to the
direct health problems caused by STD infection, high rates of STD infection in
adolescent women contribute to an increased susceptibility to HIV.
information about reproductive health contact the following organizations:
American Social Health AssociationP.O. Box 13827
Research Triangle Park, NC
Voice: (919) 361-8400 Fax: (919) 361-8425
Welcome to the CDC
National STD Hotline
(800) 227-8922 or (800) 342-2437
En Español (800) 344-7432
Chronic Disabling Conditions
In part because
they live longer than men, women are more likely to be affected by such chronic
disabling conditions as diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. These
conditions not only limit function, but over time they may be life-threatening.
Each of these disorders is characterized by a long trajectory of increasing
impairment. Chronic illnesses exert an untoward effect not only upon the person
experiencing them but also upon family members and other care givers. One study
found that the greater prevalence of nonfatal disabling conditions, including
fractures, osteoporosis, back problems, osteoarthritis and depression,
contributes substantially to greater disability and diminished quality of life
among aging women compared with men
(Murtagh et al. 2004). More research is needed to determine whether
specific gender-related factors contribute to the increased incidence of these
illnesses in women.
According to the
National Institutes of Health, diabetes overview, there are 18.2 million people
in the United States,
or 6.3% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 13 million
have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 5.2 million people are
unaware that they have the disease. Approximately 9.3 million or 8.7% of all
women over the age of 20 in the United
States have diabetes. An estimated 16
million Americans have diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes is 2 to 4 times
higher among Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian Pacific Islander women
than among white women.
Osteoporosis is a
disorder characterized by the thinning and increasing brittleness of bones, a
condition that can lead to bone fracture. According to the National Institutes
of Health Osteoporosis overview, Osteoporosis is a major public health threat
for 28 million Americans, 80% of whom are women. One out of every two
women and one in eight men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture
in their lifetime. Each year, osteoporosis causes 1.5 million fractures of the
hip, wrist, vertebrae, and other bones. It accounts for 70 percent of all the
fractures occurring every year annually in people over the age of 45. Twenty
percent of the women who suffer a hip fracture die within one year of that
An estimated 4.5
million Americans, over half of whom are women, have Alzheimer's disease in the
a figure that is expected to more than triple by the year 2050 as the
population ages (Kawas, 2003).
Women far outnumber men as caregivers for family members with Alzheimer's
disease. The chronic stress of caregiving can seriously affect a caregiver's
health. In 1995, more than 13,600 women died from the disease. It is the most
common cause of dementia for individuals over age 65. Alzheimer’s disease
places a heavy burden on society, costing an estimated $80 to $100 billion each
information about chronic disabling conditions contact the following
American Diabetes AssociationNorth Beauregard Street
ATTN: National Call Center
Alexandria, VA 22311
National Osteoporosis Foundation
1232 22nd Street N.W.
The Future of Women’s Health
Women and men are
differentiated by social and biological characteristics that are reflected in
the patterns of health and illness found among them. Gender equity and analysis
promotes both women’s and men’s health. It recognizes the significant
influence of gender on health and attempts to address the underlying social and
cultural differences. Research on gender inequities in health has and
will continue to lead to the development of different strategies addressing the
needs of both women and men. Specific outcomes of gender analysis
include: the development of better-targeted programs, more gender sensitive
practices, and more effective use of resources (Doyal 1998). The
development of a comprehensive women’s health strategy will address the needs
of women from adolescence through adulthood producing better health
outcomes. Continued awareness and understanding of the importance of
incorporating gender into health practice and policy will lead to improved
health in both women and men.
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