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Study finds health disparities among women in Los Angeles County

March 3, 2010 |  6:15 pm
Minority and low-income women in Los Angeles County are more likely to have limited access to healthcare and struggle with chronic diseases, according to a new report by the Department of Public Health.

The report, “Health Indicators for Women in Los Angeles County,” was released Wednesday by the department’s Office of Women’s Health and the Office of Health Assessment and Epidemiology.

Among the findings:

- African American women had higher mortality rates for many chronic diseases compared with other ethnic groups. For example, white women had a higher incidence of breast cancer, but African American women had the highest mortality rate.

- Latinas reported the poorest health status for women of all ethnic groups. They also reported poorer access to healthcare, with more than a third lacking health insurance and about 41% reporting difficulty accessing care. Latinas also had disproportionately higher death rates from diabetes.

- Asian/Pacific Islander women reported low rates of preventive healthcare. They were the least likely of any ethnic group to have had a Pap test in the last three years or a mammogram in the last two years.

- Of uninsured women, 54% had a mammogram in the last two years, compared with 68% of women who had Medi-Cal and 79% of women who had private insurance.

“One of the most important or startling findings is the fact that African American women continue to have the greatest health disparities and have far higher mortality rates than other women,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, who helped write the report. “They actually do fairly well when it comes to access to healthcare or rating their own health status.”

Singhal said it was not clear why African American women struggled with access to care and staying in good health, but researchers suspect racial inequality, discrimination and stress all play a role.
“What types of resources are required to meet the needs of these women? That’s something we need policy makers to look at,” Singhal said.

The report was based on data from the Los Angeles County Cancer Surveillance ProgramUCLA Center for Health Policy Research, California Quality of Life Survey and the 2007 Los Angeles County Health Survey of 7,200 adults, about half of them women.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske