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Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

Women’s Health in Southeastern Pennsylvania
Wednesday. May 1, 2013


According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Pennsylvania is among the worst states in high death rates among women due to cancer, particularly for breast cancer (24.5 per 100,000 deaths) and colorectal cancer (40.5 per 100,000 deaths) (1).  Total deaths due to all cancers among females account for 162.2 per 100,000.  Other major causes of death among females include heart disease and diabetes.  In addition, across preventive care measures, Pennsylvania’s women are ranked among the middle range of states in the U.S (1). 


National Women’s Health Week is celebrated each May as a week long health observance to promote and empower women to make their health a priority.  The week kicks off with the National Women’s Check-up Day encouraging women to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risk for diseases by visiting a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventative screenings. 


In celebration of National Women’s Health Week, the PHMC Center for Data Innovation and the Community Health Data Base (CHDB) are highlighting data from the 2012 Household Health Survey on the health of women, 18 years or older.  The Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey is administered by telephone in more than 10,000 households in the SEPA region, including Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties. Every two years, this survey collects key health information on SEPA residents to support health programs across the five county area.


Regional Landscape


In Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA), women account for 54.1% of the population.  The majority of women are white (61.1%) while non-Hispanic Black women are the largest minority population at 22.7% followed by Latino women (10.6%).  While the majority of women have health insurance (92%), approximately 132,600 women have no private or public health insurance.  In addition, more than one in eight women (12.8%) live below 100% of the poverty guidelines. 


Health Status of Women


Self-reported health status is one of the best indicators of population health. This measure has consistently shown to correlate very strongly with mortality rates (3).   In SEPA, the majority (82.8%) of adult women rate their health as excellent, very good or good. However, a sizable percentage (17.2) of women is in fair or poor health, representing 291,400 women.


High blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, cancer, and mental health conditions are common illnesses that require ongoing care.  In Southeastern Pennsylvania, many women are suffering from these conditions. 


·         More than three in ten women in Southeastern Pennsylvania (31.2%) have high blood pressure.

·         Approximately 480,000 women are overweight (29.3%) and an additional 29.6%, more than 484,100, are obese.

·         Approximately 12% of women in SEPA have been diagnosed with diabetes. 

o    Minority women are more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes; two in ten black women (20.5%), 16.2% of Latino women, and 8.7% of white women living in SEPA have been diagnosed with diabetes.

o    Without the intervention of a healthy diet and appropriate exercise this percentage could continue to increase due to the large number of overweight and obese women in the area. 

·         Nearly two in ten women are suffering from asthma (18.7%). 

·         Approximately 317,800 women in SEPA have been diagnosed with a mental health condition.

o    However, more than one-third of women (36.8%) who have been diagnosed with a mental health condition are not receiving treatment.

·         Over 150,700 women in Southeastern Pennsylvania have had cancer. 


Preventative Health Screenings

Regular health screenings, such as mammograms and Pap tests, are vital to the early detection of diseases.  Many preventative screenings have been recognized as a cost-effective way to identify and treat potential health problems before they develop or worsen (2).  Early detection can improve chances for treatment and cure and help women to live longer, healthier lives.  Other screenings and routine care can help women lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.  However, in Southeastern Pennsylvania there is an increasing number of women not receiving appropriate health screenings.


·         Four in ten (41.9%) of SEPA women did not receive a Pap test within the past year, representing more than 697,000 women. 

·         One-third of women (33%) did not receive a breast exam in the past year, representing 553,000 women.

·         More than 418,100 women over the age of forty (36.7%) did not receive a mammogram in the past year. 

·         More than eight in ten women over the age of fifty (82.2%) did not receive a colonoscopy of sigmoidoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer in the past year, representing more than 719,300 women. 




The health of families and communities are closely tied to the health of women.  And while women’s health issues have attained higher visibility in recent decades, there is still a need to continue to educate and encourage women to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risk for diseases by visiting a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventative screenings. 


For more information about these findings, please contact Amy Clark at


To download this article in as a PDF, click here.  To read more about our previous data, please click here.


(1)  Health Disparities Profiles: 2011 Edition. Washington, DC: DHHS Office on Women’s Health. 2011.  Retrieved from




(3)  Idler EL, Benyamini Y. Self-Rated Health and Mortality: A Review of Twenty-Seven Community Studies. Journal of Health and Social Behavior. 1997; 21-37. 

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