Washington—Health policy researchers report that one reason the U.S. lags in infant mortality and premature births is inadequate health coverage and insufficient health care for women. With nearly half of poor women uninsured and too few health insurers covering comprehensive preventive and primary care for women, opportunities are missed to screen and treat for problems that affect childbearing.
A special supplement to the journal Women’s Health Issues, published by the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health of The George Washington University (GW) School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS) and supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, describes how the nation can improve the health of women and infants with health reforms and more effective public policy. Susan Wood, Director of the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health at the GW SPHHS, said: “To improve access to preventive services, Congress and the new Administration must consider who is covered, the design of coverage, and women’s health needs.”
Just over half – approximately 50 million – U.S. women are of reproductive age and approximately six million U.S. women become pregnant each year. Current health policies are focused on prenatal care and not designed to improve the health of women both before and in between pregnancies. A focus on prevention through preconception and interconception care increasingly is understood as essential, not only to the health of women, but as a key part of a comprehensive strategy to improve the health of the next generation.
“Changes in public policy and health care financing, particularly health coverage and benefits are essential for improving preconception health,” said Kay Johnson, co-editor of the Supplement. “In the fifteen peer-reviewed articles in this publication, experts describe how to improve programs and policy.”
The Women’s Health Issues Supplement provides a framework for improving preconception care in the context of larger health reform debates. “The CDC’s ‘Recommendations to Improve Preconception Health and Health Care’ calls for major reforms in the design of coverage to create a comprehensive women’s benefit for women of reproductive age,” Wood said. This should include a “well woman” benefit consisting of coverage of routine preventive visits (including a pre-pregnancy checkup) and a broad array of treatments to reduce identified risks.
The Supplement also includes articles describing the roles of federal programs such as Community Health Centers, Healthy Start, and Title X Family Planning programs. Each of these “safety net” programs has the potential to improve preconception health at the state and local levels, particularly in medically underserved areas.
Free online access to all manuscripts in the Supplement is available at the Women’s Health Issues website:
For more information about the Jacobs Institute of Women’s Health, please visit:
About The George Washington University Medical Center
The George Washington University Medical Center is an internationally recognized interdisciplinary academic health center that has consistently provided high-quality medical care in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, since 1824. The Medical Center comprises the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the 11th oldest medical school in the country; the School of Public Health and Health Services, the only such school in the nation’s capital; GW Hospital, jointly owned and operated by a partnership between The George Washington University and a subsidiary of Universal Health Services, Inc.; and the GW Medical Faculty Associates, an independent faculty practice plan. For more information on GWUMC, visit www.gwumc.edu.