contact us | site map | PHMC Home
Community Health Data Base
An Information Service of the Philadelphia Health Management Corporation

SEPA Women Continue to Face Health Barriers
Wednesday. May 14, 2008

Axler, Francine
(215) 985-2521

PHILADELPHIA – In light of Women’s Health Week, May 11-17, The Community Health Data Base (CHDB) has released a study that shows disparities between women who engage in healthy lifestyles and those who do not. Women’s Health Week is an effort by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to remind women to make health a top priority by taking simple steps for a longer, healthier life.

A recent report from CHDB, a program of Philadelphia Health Management Corporation (PHMC), shows that some Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) women smoke cigarettes, do not exercise on a regular basis and are not receiving important, routine medical screenings such as blood cholesterol checks, dental exams, breast exams and annual mammograms.

The findings show that while nearly six in ten (56.9% ) SEPA women engage in some form of exercise (at least 30 minutes 3 days per week), a sizable percentage do not; approximately four in ten (43%) women do not exercise at least 30 minutes 3 days per week. When it comes to risky health behaviors, approximately one in five SEPA women smoke cigarettes daily and 3.2% of SEPA women are considered problem drinkers, which means five or more drinks are consumed per day for 5 days in a row.

Francine Axler, CHDB Project Director, views Women’s Health Week as a great opportunity to examine specific health concerns regarding women. “Some of the health barriers effecting women in our region are inadequate health insurance, limited access to safe places to exercise, lack of fresh, quality produce, and other social and economic barriers.” SEPA women also deal with economic constraints, such as unemployment, and many area women are working multiple jobs to make ends meet.

While avoiding risky health behavior may seem apparent, many SEPA women are simply not engaging in simple preventative care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services urges women to give particular focus to forming strong, meaningful bonds with a regular health care provider. Axler explains “For many women with demanding schedules, simple steps like making time for regular visits to the doctor can become more difficult to accomplish.”

 When looking at the most common and important screening for women, the CHDB research shows:

 • 195,000 (12.2%) SEPA women have not visited a doctor or health care provider in the previous year;

• More than one-quarter (28.5%) of SEPA women have not had a cholesterol screen in the previous year;

• One-third (33%) of SEPA women have not had a dental exam in the previous year;

• One-quarter (25%) of SEPA women have not received a clinical breast exam and slightly more than one-third (35%) of age appropriate SEPA women have not had a mammogram in the previous year;

• One in five (20%) SEPA women have not been screened for cervical cancer in the previous year;

In light of such findings, Axler believes that National Women’s Health Week is important and “encourages and empowers women to get healthy by taking action.”

National Women’s Health Week provides an opportunity to take time to consider the specific health concerns, strengths, and barriers faced by women and strategize about new ways to eliminate barriers and enhance health outcomes for everyone, both in the region and across the country.

The Community Health Data Base (CHDB) Southeastern Pennsylvania Household Health Survey is the largest local health survey in the country, covering Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia counties. Conducted every two years, the survey provides timely data on more than 13,000 children and adults in SEPA and is used by health care providers across the region to plan programs, market services, and assess needs. The Pew Charitable Trusts, The William Penn Foundation, United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania, and over 350 local agencies from the health, government, nonprofit, and academic sectors help to support the CHDB. For more information on CHDB, visit

 # # #