Why Women Are Skipping Health Screenings

A recent Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of the Alliance for Women’s Health and Prevention (AWHP) has shed light on concerning trends regarding women's access to preventive healthcare in the United States.

According to the survey, 45 percent of adult women reported going without preventive screenings, check-ups, or vaccines in the past year. Among them, 25 percent cited high healthcare costs as the primary barrier to accessing care.

Millicent Gorham, chair of the board of directors of AWHP, emphasized the need for increased awareness about the importance of preventive care and advocated for policies addressing the barriers women often face. The survey results underscore the importance of advocating for equitable, accessible, and affordable preventive care for all women and girls.

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing challenges, with fear of the virus keeping some women away from healthcare facilities, leading to a halt in preventive care access. Despite efforts to bridge care gaps, the survey reveals ongoing low access to preventive care among many women, with 22 percent skipping annual check-ups or routine tests, 22 percent skipping recommended vaccines, and 14 percent forgoing medical tests or treatments.

The disparities in cervical cancer occurrence are noteworthy, particularly among Hispanic and Black women. To increase screening rates, healthcare providers should leverage patient-provider relationships, as indicated by the survey, where 72 percent of women expressed they would be more likely to undergo cervical cancer screening if recommended by their provider.

Better insurance coverage and access to insurance could also help close the gap in preventive care access. Only a third of women stated they would undergo cervical cancer screening if it wasn’t covered by insurance, highlighting the significance of affordability and payer coverage in accessing preventive care.

Haywood Brown, MD, a member of the board of directors of AWHP, stressed the importance of taking action to ensure all women routinely see an OBGYN and receive screenings for cervical cancer.

A 2022 report from the Commonwealth Fund highlighted similar challenges in men's healthcare access, with high costs and inadequate insurance coverage preventing many American men from accessing necessary care.

Men in the United States are less likely to have a usual source of care, more likely to skip necessary care due to cost-related problems, and more likely to report difficulty paying medical bills.

In light of the concerning findings regarding women's access to preventive healthcare and the challenges posed by high healthcare costs, it is imperative for policymakers, healthcare providers, and advocacy groups to prioritize efforts aimed at improving access to affordable and equitable preventive care for all women. Addressing these barriers not only enhances individual health outcomes but also contributes to the overall well-being of communities. Efforts should focus on raising awareness, advocating for policy reforms, strengthening patient-provider relationships, and expanding insurance coverage to ensure that women receive the preventive care they need to lead healthier lives.

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