By Kelsey Tsipis

Women’s health experts say there’s a positive trend for women’s health in North Carolina, but there’s still a way to go to make the state’s women the healthiest they can be.

Rep Verla Insko presents the NC Women's Health Report Card, flanked by Rep. Becky Carney (D-Charlotte), Rep. Alice Bordsen (D-Mebane) and
Rep Verla Insko presents the NC Women's Health Report Card, flanked by Reps. Becky Carney (D-Charlotte), Alice Bordsen (D-Mebane) and Diane Parfitt (D-Fayetteville)

Rep. Verla Insko (D-Chapel Hill) began a press conference on women’s health at the General Assembly this morning reminding listeners North Carolina is one of the unhealthiest states in a nation that itself only ranks 37th in overall health on the world stage.

Insko was there with leaders from the UNC Center for Women’s Health Research. They were releasing the 2012 North Carolina Women’s Health Report Card today to mark National Women’s Health Week.

“It show trends over a nine-year time period and that is that women’s health and health care needs are improving,” said Insko. “We see the AIDS issue leveling off but we still have a ways to go with obesity.”

Although new AIDS diagnoses have leveled off, African American women in North Carolina still remain 14 times more likely than white women to contract HIV.

While the report shows positive findings such as North Carolina women exceeding many Healthy People 2010 preventative health objectives, there are still severe health issues amoung the 4.9 million women in North Carolina.

Two main health concerns remain obesity and cardiovascular disease. The CWHR report finds that in 2009, more than one in four North Carolina women were obese and one in 10 had diabetes.

“It’s has a lot to do with southern foods. People in the south have a tendency to eat more pork and fried foods,” said Insko. “It’s a tradition that’s passed down from generation to generation, so it will take several generations to stop. The most successful prevention, in my opinion, is to work with children.”

CWHR head Wendy Brewster said it would be best for babies for women to breastfeed for at least 6 months.

Dr. Wendy Brewster, Director if CWHR, said health care information for women in North Carolina is vital because women are the primary caretakers of families.

“Women’s education in diet, exercise and prevention get to the families because they’re the gatekeepers of the family,” said Brewster. “I don’t think people realize the health of a family is determined by the woman.”

The report card provides only small glimpses into the trans-disciplinary research on women’s health funded by the CWHR. Currently, the center is funding over 15 research studies. The CWHR is funded primarily through grants and investments from the UNC School of Medicine. It receives no state funds.

“Our primary goal is getting women’s health research done. I think we would be a valuable investment to the state,” said Brewster. “But they have other priorities at this time, so the School of Medicine invests. But when they cut the institution’s budget, things have to go.”

Key findings from the Women’s Health Report Card


  • North Carolinian women exceeded many Healthy People 2010 preventative health objectives
  • 80% of women over 50 have had a mammogram in the past two years
  • 64% of women over 50 have had a colonoscopy.
  • 68% of women have been to the dentist in the past 12 months.
  • Smoking among women in North Carolina has decreased over the last decade.


  • Rates of chronic disease are increasing among women in North Carolina.
  • In 2009, more than one in four North Carolinian women were obese and one in 10 had diabetes.
  • Birth outcomes in North Carolina are poor:
    • 9.1% of babies in 2009 were of low birth weight, nearly double the Healthy People 2010 goal of 5% or less.
    • Less than half of new mothers are still breastfeeding at three months
    • The percentage of women going without first trimester prenatal care is increasing.
  • Heart disease is the number one killer of women in North Carolina.
  • Skin cancer among women increased by 50% over the last decade.
  • The percentage of women experiencing prolonged periods (14 days or more) or poor mental health is increasing

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Rose Hoban is the founder and editor of NC Health News, as well as being the state government reporter. Hoban has been a registered nurse since 1992, but transitioned to journalism after earning degrees...