Governor Announces Release of 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina Health & Wellness Report
Governor Cooper today announced the completion of the 2019 Status of Women in North Carolina: Health and Wellness Report, released by the NC Department of Administration’s Council for Women and Youth Involvement. The report was unveiled at the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville and is the second in a series of four highlighting key issues affecting the lives of women in North Carolina in partnership with the Institute for Women’s Policy Research.
“Understanding where women’s health is lagging in North Carolina helps guide our policy decisions needed to improve access to preventive care,” said Governor Cooper. “This data not only represents a benchmark for women’s health, but also where we need to expand our efforts to improve the health of North Carolina’s families, communities and the economy.”
NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Senior Early Childhood Policy Advisor Rebecca Planchard joined Council Director Mary Williams-Stover and the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) Study Director Elyse Shaw at MAHEC to provide a review of data and policy recommendations from the 2019 Health and Wellness report. The report provides detailed data analysis on North Carolina women and health issues relating to chronic disease, physical and sexual health, access to health care and sexual assault.
Key findings from the 2019 Status of Women report include:
• North Carolina ranks 11th highest in infant mortality and 9th highest in stroke mortality among women – and the problem is even worse in rural counties and for women of color.
• North Carolina’s mortality rates for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and breast cancer, among other diseases, have decreased since the 2013 report.
• In North Carolina, more than one-third of women (35 percent) have experienced at least one type of intimate partner violence (IPV) and more than 35 percent of North Carolina women report having experienced some form of aggression or control by an intimate partner.
• Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina ranks in the middle or bottom on indicators of health and wellness. North Carolina’s best ranking is for heart disease mortality (27th out of 51) and its worst is for AIDS diagnoses (44th).
• There are wide disparities in North Carolina women’s disease mortality rates by race and ethnicity. The heart disease rate among Black women in North Carolina is more than three times higher than the rate of Hispanic women, the racial and ethnic group with the lowest rate. Black women also have a rate of breast cancer mortality that is more than three times higher than the rate for Hispanic women.
“This report outlines serious concerns for women’s health in our state, especially when it comes to infant and maternal mortality,” said NC Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen. “North Carolina women have the highest rates in the country for diabetes, which, if left untreated, puts them at risk for strokes and complicated pregnancies. If North Carolina expanded Medicaid, nearly 280,000 women of reproductive age could access affordable insurance and the means to address health issues before they become expensive and life-threatening.”
The results of the new Status of Women in North Carolina report align with central goals of theNorth Carolina Early Childhood Action Plan, released in February 2019 following Executive Order No. 49 by Governor Roy Cooper. A central focus in the action plan is reducing rates of infant mortality and disparities among African American births across the state. The NC Early Childhood Action Plan outlines NCDHHS’ commitments to support young children and families.
“We’re seeing improvements in women’s health, but not for everyone. Many women face health challenges and barriers to health care, especially in our rural counties,” said NC Department of Administration Secretary Machelle Sanders. “Improving the health of women isn’t just a women’s issue—it is everyone’s issue—and this report underscores the need to close the health insurance coverage gap.”
Data from the report points out the need to increase access to health insurance and health care by expanding Medicaid, as championed by Governor Roy Cooper. More than 70 percent of North Carolina’s counties are rural, and 57 percent of the state’s workforce is comprised of women. Closing the health insurance coverage gap would bring $4 billion into the state’s economy, create thousands of jobs and expand access to health care for 500,000 people. This will bring tens of thousands of new jobs, help rural hospitals stay open, and ensure that North Carolinians are healthier.
Asheville is one of the first of many stops across the state to discuss the report and its findings. Event partner MAHEC serves North Carolina’s 16 westernmost counties through innovative health professions training and education, and patient-centered healthcare.
As follow up to today’s event, leaders from the Council and DOA will highlight report findings at UNC Wilmington’s College of Health & Human Services and the YWCA Lower Cape Fear on June 26, and also embark on regional visits this fall to share the report findings and hear local community input on the status of women.
The Status of Women in NC report on Earnings & Employment was released in 2018, and found that North Carolina has a 19 percent wage gap and ranks in the bottom third in the nation in women’s workforce participation. Governor Cooper subsequently issued Executive Order No. 93 banning salary history inquiries to address the gender wage gap among state workers.
Governor Cooper also issued Executive Order No. 95 providing paid parental leave to Cabinet employees—a strategy found to help women remain and advance in the workforce.
Future reports over the next two years will focus on poverty and opportunity, and political participation. More information is available at ncadmin.nc.gov/statusofwomennc2019.