Lifting the Curtain on Women's Health
A paradigm shift has begun in infant mortality reduction
circles, springboarding beyond prenatal care and focusing
more on women's overall health and its affect on successful
In June 2005, North Carolina's State Infant Mortality
Collaborative (SIMS) completed an ambitious qualitative
study designed to document women's knowledge, attitudes
and practices of health-promoting behaviors across
North Carolina. Coordinated by the North Carolina Healthy
Start Foundation, the purpose of the project was to
better understand the link between women's health,
self-care and infant mortality.
Notably, respondents communicated an overall awareness
of the importance of healthy lifestyles and behaviors.
Study participants outlined the need to be proactive
about health, emphasizing the importance of good nutrition,
stress management and exercise. They reported understanding
the need to see a doctor for preventative health care,
and among ethnic and racial minority participants,
respondents were particularly aware of health risks
prevalent in their communities.
However, a majority of participants reported the presence
of distinct personal and systemic barriers which prohibited
them from attaining their health goals. The patient/doctor
relationship was outlined as a significant impediment
for many. Several African American respondents cited
mistrust of the medical community, while women from
lower socioeconomic groups often felt ignored or "talked
down to" by medical professionals.
Financial and economic issues, time constraints and
family needs were also identified as barriers. A large
number of respondents admitted to putting their health
secondary to the needs of spouses, parents and children.
Many also noted that family and spousal support were
important to their taking care of themselves.
One of the study's more significant revelations related
directly to pregnancy. Across the sample, respondents
that becoming pregnant changed their attitudes toward
their own health. Most reported trying to do "everything
right" once they learned they were going to have a
This indicates that many women are aware of the affect
their health has on the potential health of their baby.
What many fail to realize is that their decision to
take care of themselves should begin long before becoming
pregnant. Good health is a lifelong decision.
This is particularly relevant given that becoming
a parent is oftentimes unexpected news. According to
the 2003 NC Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System
survey, more than 50 percent of North Carolina pregnancies
were unintended. Thus, a large percentage of women
conceive but are not prepared physically or emotionally
This lack of preparedness oftentimes cannot be reversed
by even the most comprehensive prenatal care, underlining
the importance of total women's health and its direct
relation to infant mortality.
here to view the final SIMS Research Report
here to view and order free educational materials
pertaining to women's health
here to view PRAMS data
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