Health care for women earns failing grade in Texas, study shows

Texas is currently failing in women’s health, but getting involved in decision-making and education could raise the grade, a nursing professor said. Melissa Sherrod, assistant professor of nursing, said she has worked in health care for 30 years, specifically in women’s health, and was not surprised by the low national and state grades.

The National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health and Science University graded the overall health of women in each state and the District of Columbia and stated there was not one place in the nation that had a satisfactory grade.

Texas received an F, was ranked 42 and was the worst in the nation for the number of women without health insurance, according to the report.

Sherrod said she agreed with the report card but was shocked at the high number of uninsured women, particularly among minorities and women between the ages of 18 and 44.

Texas’ low ranking is because of women being silent about their health concerns and not alerting lawmakers, she said.

“The more women you have in decision-making roles, the more opportunities you have to change policy,” Sherrod said. “Women need to be involved in shaping policy.”

Sherrod said other factors include the number of working poor in Texas who can’t afford health insurance, the government’s lack of funding to provide insurance for everyone and Texas’ strong individualistic attitude.

TCU’s Women’s Network is a student organization that educates students about women’s issues and encourages students to make a difference in their community.

JoHannah Hamilton, coordinator of the Women’s Network, said people are embarrassed to talk about women’s health because they perceive it to be mainly sexual when it’s not.

Hamilton, a senior anthropology major and women’s studies minor, said last month that the network met with a Planned Parenthood representative and wrote postcards and called lawmakers to lobby for change in Texas’ birth control prices.

“Men and women don’t seek out ways to educate themselves,” Hamilton said. “I think that’s really the issue.”

A group of students is currently trying to start an organization with a focus on women’s health education.

The founder of the group, freshman psychology major and theater minor Cole Mortimer, said she created the group because she was shocked at how little women knew about their own bodies.

Apart from the lack of education and legislation geared toward improving women’s health, Sherrod said, Texas mainly focuses on health topics such as pregnancy and childbirth.

The state is starting to focus on growing issues such as diabetes and heart disease, Sherrod said, but unless one has a disease the state is targeting, then there’s little that can be done for you.

“I think the medical system is fragmented,” Sherrod said. “We tend to look at specific diseases and target certain ones. The money is funneled into the most popular diseases.”

Sherrod said students should practice healthy habits while they’re young, research their family’s medical history and take advantage of the health insurance they have now by getting regular health screenings.

Johnnie Ireland, the Health Center’s nurse practitioner of women’s health, said female students can go to the Health Center to get information or a complete gynecological exam.

Overall, the nation’s grade for women’s health is unsatisfactory and is far from meeting the 2010 guidelines set by the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the report.

The three top-scoring states that received a satisfactory minus grade were Vermont, Minnesota and Massachusetts, the report stated. The center based its grades and rankings on women’s access to health care, wellness and prevention, key medical conditions and living in a healthy community, the report stated.

“If you’re smart, you’ll find out what your risks are and starting making behavioral choices,” Sherrod said. “If we wait for your state, you can see how long it will take.