Women’s Health in Missouri
An article in the Post-Dispatch today reports that the National Women’s Law Center and Oregon Health Sciences University have given Missouri an "unsatisfactory" grade in their survey of women’s health in the 50 states:
Missouri dropped to 38th out of 50 states in the overall ranking, down from 35th in 2004. The state fared well in getting prenatal care to women in the first trimester of pregnancy, ranking seventh in the nation for that measure. But more than a third of Missouri women have arthritis, placing the state at 48th of 50 states. And Missouri is one of a few states that has lost ground on the number of poor women covered by Medicaid, Waxman said.
I don’t think we need to be very concerned about this report. First, the life expectancy for women is higher than for men, and men are at greater risk for some big killers like heart disease. And while the statistics on conditions like obesity may appear disconcerting, they have a lot to do with people’s personal lifestyle choices, which are outside of the control of state health policy.
I also think it’s a mistake to give a state a bad grade because not everybody eligible for Medicaid uses it. As Dave Stokes has explained, low participation rates in government programs can be a sign of self-reliance rather than of unused resources.