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ICYMI: The Status of Women in NC Data Sneak Peek

By Em Hagstrom

A lot was going on in Raleigh on Wednesday, May 1st. (Let’s be honest—when is there not?) But this particular day, I wasn’t in Raleigh. Instead, I had the pleasure of being welcomed onto the campus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro to talk about something that is deeply personal to me: health and wellness.

When we wake up in the morning, neither health nor wellness are the first things we think about, but they certainly are the first things that affect our day. Our health and wellness impact every aspect of our daily lives—from how well we sleep at night, to how well we wake up in the morning; from how productive we are at work, to how much pain and fatigue we feel at the end of the day. Our quality of life is dictated by our health and wellness, and as a young woman living with chronic illness, I can certainly appreciate how important it is for us to understand the status of this critical factor of our lives here in North Carolina.

All this was on my mind as we gathered yesterday at the beautiful Leonard J. Kaplan Center for Wellness at UNC Greensboro. The facility, filled with state-of-the-art exercise and recreational equipment, provided a lovely backdrop for the pre-launch of The Status of Women in NC: Health and Wellness report. After all, when we consider the status of women’s health in the state, it is important that we imagine the possibilities of what could be—of the resources some women in our great state are already so privileged to have.

Preliminary data from the Status of Women in NC: Health and Wellness report shows there is a disparity among women in our state. Women of color, particularly Black women, and women in rural areas are more likely to have higher mortality rates due to diseases like stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Additionally, women of color in our state are more likely to experience higher rates of intimate partner violence and sexual assault, experience higher infant mortality rates, and are more likely to be impacted by sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. We in North Carolina have work to do to make sure our state is the best it can be for all women.

But there is good news! Health and wellness among North Carolina women are improving in several areas. More North Carolina women are getting mammograms—and breast cancer mortality rates among women have decreased over time. Additionally, heart disease and stroke mortality rates have decreased over time for women in North Carolina—also good news! These improvements show that when North Carolinians put evidence-based solutions into work for women’s health and wellness, we can make progress.

The Status of Women in NC: Health and Wellness report gives five recommendations to make progress for women’s health and wellness in North Carolina:

  • Close the health insurance gap
  • Increase North Carolina women’s economic security, including:
    • Increasing the minimum wage
    • Enacting paid family and medical leave, paid sick days for all employees, and schedule predictability
  • Increase medical investments in rural areas
  • Increase funding for survivors of interpersonal violence and sexual assault
  • Increase investments in young people, including hiring more:
    • School counselors
    • School psychologists
    • Social workers, and
    • School nurses

After hearing event presenters such as Brenda White, a survivor of domestic violence and advocate for violence prevention and response in the Triad, I am filled with hope for North Carolina women. We are resilient, we are strong, and, when faced with challenges, we are solution-oriented. I look forward to the full Status of Women in NC: Health and Wellness report release next month. Wednesday’s preliminary release and visit to the Center for New North Carolinians—an organization dedicated to improving women’s health in the Triad—already makes me confident that the report will provide us with the tools we need to improve our communities to make this state the best place for women to live and thrive.