Improving Women's Health: State Policy Options


Chronic diseases, such as heart disease, cancer and stroke, cause more death, illness and disability in the United States than any other cause. Each year, more than 1.7 million Americans die from a chronic disease, accounting for seven out of every 10 deaths.

While chronic disease is the leading cause of death for men and women alike, women face unique health challenges. Thirty-eight percent of women suffer from one or more chronic diseases, compared to 30 percent of men.

The rise in chronic diseases not only has serious consequences for the nation’s health and health care systems, but it also significantly contributes to health care costs. Eighty-six percent of U.S. health care spending is on people who have chronic diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Despite the health and financial costs related to chronic diseases, they are also among the most preventable of health problems.

Just as women face unique health challenges, many policymakers recognize that promoting women’s health and preventing disease can improve health outcomes and quality of care, and reduce costs.

Policies that promote women’s health also achieve results that extend beyond healthy women. According to a 2013 report by the National Partnership for Women and Families, women make 80 percent of the health care decisions in their families. They are key to maintaining healthy families, as women are more likely to be the primary caregivers to children and aging parents alike.

This brief highlights key challenges to women’s health, including chronic disease and access to care, and describes state policy options in three key areas:

  • Addressing Chronic Diseases and Conditions
  • Improving Access to Preventive Care
  • Improving Quality of Care and Health Outcomes Addressing Chronic Diseases


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