Lack of Health Insurance Complicates Health Issues Facing Dallas-Fort Worth Women, Report From Dallas Women's Foundation Shows

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As the nation focuses on the state of health care, women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are among the groups across the country that are most acutely impacted by lack of health insurance, according to research compiled by the Dallas Women's Foundation. In the region, close to one out of five women live without health insurance, above the national average of one out of eight. The report, the Dallas Women's Foundation Health & Safety Indicators, also shows that a new generation of health concerns are on the rise, including levels of obesity that threaten to reverse progress made with heart disease; more women living longer and needing care due to lengthier chronic disease or Alzheimer's; and the added mental health and economic strains of increased numbers of low birth weight babies.

As the nation focuses on the state of health care, women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area are among the groups across the country that are most acutely impacted by lack of health insurance, according to research compiled by the Dallas Women's Foundation. In this region, close to one out of five women live without health insurance, above the national average of one out of eight (12.4 percent). Local women, who are more likely than men to head households alone and less likely to hold jobs offering medical benefits, are faced with hard choices, prioritizing paying the bills or for their children's health care over important preventive care and consistent medical treatment for themselves.

"A woman's health affects far more than just her medical well-being. It impacts her ability to engage in all aspects of her life - as a woman, a mother, a worker, a caregiver, a leader and more. Women so often serve as the foundations of our families and our communities, and their collective health is critical to their ability to fulfill those roles," said Becky Sykes, executive director of Dallas Women's Foundation.

The report, the Dallas Women's Foundation Health & Safety Indicators, also shows that women's health in Dallas-Fort Worth is at a crossroads. Thanks to medical advancements and preventive education, smoking has decreased, cancer screenings have improved, and heart disease and cancer deaths have declined.

In their place, a new generation of concerns are on the rise, including levels of obesity that threaten to reverse progress made with heart disease; more women living longer and needing care due to lengthier chronic disease or Alzheimer's; and the added mental health and economic strains of increased numbers of low birth weight babies..

The Dallas Women's Foundation Health & Safety Indicators (available online at http://www.dallaswomensfoundation.org) revealed several key findings including:

A significant population of women in Dallas-Fort Worth faces obstacles to accessing healthcare due to lack of health insurance.

  •     Nearly one out of five (20 percent) Dallas-Fort Worth women - more than 419,500 - live without health insurance. That is almost 50,000 more individuals than live in the entire city of Arlington.
  •     Even with a recent 25 percent decrease in regional uninsured rates for women, we still lag behind the rest of the country.

Rising obesity and overweight rates are contributing to a troubling shift in chronic disease risk factors for Dallas-Fort Worth women.

  •     More than half - 56 percent - of women in the Dallas-Fort Worth region are either overweight or obese, and those numbers are growing. That's equal to more than 1.25 million women.
  •     While men's obesity is decreasing, women's obesity is on the rise.
  •     Without halting the increase of obesity, related issues like high blood pressure and diabetes are likely to feed a reversal in recent positive trends for heart disease, stroke and other chronic disease deaths among local women.

Advances in medical knowledge and technology, while positively impacting some areas, are creating new challenges for women in caregiver roles.

  •     More women are bringing high-risk pregnancies to live births. New challenges are being created by this positive trend: more newborns have a very low birth weight, and babies are dying at a higher rate in the first months of life.
  •     Women (as well as men) are receiving better care to extend their lives. As a result, more of the population is living longer with chronic illnesses like heart disease and cancer. Likewise, more are alive at an older age to experience the onset of Alzheimer's disease and to need intense personal care.

The toll that violence takes on women is incompletely and inconsistently documented.

  •     Dallas-Fort Worth sees an average of just under 100 incidents of domestic violence against women and girls every day - approximately one every 15 minutes.
  •     An average of six forcible rapes is reported daily.
  •     Many victims don't report rapes or assaults out of fear, so these figures are certainly low. Also contributing to a lack of reliable data are changing police reporting methods, confidentiality surrounding these cases and the lack of a central data source for shelter admittances.

The Dallas Women's Foundation Health & Safety Indicators report was compiled by the foundation from publicly available data to present an objective portrait of how women are faring in the Dallas-Fort Worth community. The study, which is the first of its kind to be updated annually, is complemented by similar reports on Economic Security (released last fall) and Education (to be released late this year). The findings of these reports are intended to create informed action on behalf of women in the Dallas-Fort Worth community.

The study covers women in the 12-county Dallas-Arlington-Fort Worth Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA), including Collin, Dallas, Delta, Denton, Ellis, Hunt, Johnson, Kaufman, Parker, Rockwall, Tarrant and Wise counties.

Created in 1985, the Dallas Women's Foundation researches the needs and issues of women and girls, makes grants to programs that address those critical areas and empowers women philanthropists. The foundation has invested more than $11.5 million in more than 950 programs primarily in Dallas, Denton and Collin counties, assisting more than a quarter of a million of the region's women and girls. For more information, visit http://www.dallaswomensfoundation.org.

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