This report estimates the direct and indirect costs of care for women for the major chronic diseases and conditions that women face across the lifespan. It also identifies the key primary care and preventive services that can lead to prevention, early detection or early intervention for these conditions. Health care screening, counseling, early diagnosis, and early intervention health care services are important for women at each stage of their lives. But women typically seek care in primary care settings for family planning services and cancer screening prior to becoming pregnant. As a result, high quality care during the reproductive years offers an important opportunity to identify risk factors and health conditions and to provide appropriate interventions and quality care.
Primary and preventive care standards also underscore that screening for cancer, risks for heart disease, family planning services and detection of violence, as well as smoking cessation and nutrition counseling, should begin during the reproductive years. A healthy pregnancy, leading to the best outcome for both mother and child, begins when the woman is in the best possible health prior to conception. Counseling on obesity prevention and smoking cessation are vital prior to pregnancy; delaying counseling until after conception compromises a woman's ability to achieve the best outcomes. Identification of hypertension and/or gestational diabetes in pregnancy provides an opportunity to identify women at higher risk of heart disease and diabetes later in life.
Early care is particularly important for women who are members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Approximately one in every three residents of the United States self-identifies as African-American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific-American, or Latino. Disparities in health status are closely associated with race and ethnicity – in health insurance coverage, psychosocial stress, discrimination and health care access and quality, and in deaths due to breast cancer and pregnancy-related causes.
Wood, S. F., Dor, A., Gee, R. E., Harms, A., Mauery, D. R., Rosenbaum, S., & Tan, E. (2009). Women's health and health care reform: The economic burden of disease in women. Washington, D.C.: George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services, Jacobs Institute of Women's Health.