Utah women are some of the worst in the country at getting necessary screening checks — they rank 50th in getting mammograms within the past two years, 53rd for pap smears within the past three years and 51st in cholesterol screenings in the past five years, said Catherine Wheeler, a gynecologist at the University Hospital, director of the Women's Life Center and co-chair of the Utah Women's Health Coalition.
Yet Utah women shouldn't be using the excuse that they can't afford it, because according to data from the national Office of Women's Health, Utah ranks 27th for having health insurance for women ages 18 to 64. Thus it's more of an attitudinal problem than a financial one, said Kathleen Digre, director for the Center of Excellence in Women's Health at the University of Utah.
"I think that's an important message for the women of Utah," she said. "We're at the bottom of the barrel, and it's because we're good care-givers. We give good care to everyone but ourselves. Every mom, and we've got a lot of mothers in Utah, is always taking care of the kids first, her husband second and herself third."
To really make a difference, overall health must also become a way of life, Wheeler said, with increased emphasis placed on good dietary and activity habits.
"We (need to) start training our people, our girls and boys, at a younger age about what's healthy eating, what's physical activity," she said.
Wheeler pointed out that in health as well as other areas, women are faring better because they're getting married later — in their 20s rather than their mid-teens — which often means they're going on to college rather than dropping out of high school to become mothers.
Women and girls who are more educated tend to make more money, experience less domestic violence, weigh less and experience fewer health challenges, she said.
The study pointed out that only 24 percent of women who had less than a high-school education met the physical activity guidelines, whereas 51 percent of women who had some college education met the guidelines.
"The more we can get our young women to finish high school...and get an education," she said, "it gives them more power, and that improves the world."
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