Women and Public Health

Public policy must catch up with the needs of women. 

Women have different health concerns than men and typically bear the brunt of child-rearing responsibilities. They also typically earn less than men in comparable positions. Issues of poverty disproportionately affect women and their children.

Women's Health Services

Much of women’s health policy centers on contraceptive and family planning services. This includes not just abortion, access to contraceptives and the coverage of these services under both public and private insurers, but also sexual health tests and important care specific to women.

There have been many legal challenges to the right to abortion and contraceptive coverage in recent years, and most women are affected by these policies. Abortion was legalized nationwide in 1973 as the result of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade. Yet despite the court ruling, the issue of a woman’s choice has been threatened persistently — and in a number of cases violently — and this situation doesn’t appear to be waning.

Traditionally women in this century have been provided medical treatment protocols - based on research that was only done with male subjects.  Current research studies now are being done with the inclusion of female subjects.  Thus new breakthroughs, like the need for female protocols for heart disease are now being validated.

Family Policy

Another important health policy issue that affects women more frequently than men is that of paid sick leave for parents who need to stay home from work to care for sick children. Sixty percent of caretakers must take such days off without pay, creating a financial burden for a family.

Although men are also subject to family policies, the great majority of those adversely affected are women, who are more often the primary caretakers, and are often the lower-earning spouse. Marginalized Social marginalization happens when a group of people are denied equal and adequate opportunity to determine their treatment by the members of the broader society. It usually includes the lack of representation, recognition of rights and equal redistribution of resources and services. families such as single parents, LGBTQ Stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. families, families of color and families experiencing poverty are often more severely affected because their needs are vastly discounted or ignored.

Domestic Violence Policy

Much of the public policy that is directed towards women today is focused on women’s health. Unfortunately, it fails to equally address other pressing issues such as sexual and domestic violence. Domestic violence can affect anyone, of any gender, race or socioeconomic status.

However, women constitute close to 95% of victims of domestic violence, and more than half of all women will experience physical abuse in an intimate relationship. For 24-30% of those women, the battering will be regular and ongoing. Each state and tribal jurisdiction has local policies concerning domestic violence.

It is extremely important that women have a strong voice at every level of government to ensure that these issues are addressed in local, state and national policy.