Supporting the health needs of women and their families

Supporting the unique health needs of women

When people think of women’s health, the first topics that often come to mind may be gynecological concerns such as infertility, menopause, pregnancy and childbirth. However, these issues only represent a piece of the full picture of women’s health. 

Women and children in the U.S. face a variety of challenges and barriers to well-being. These range from the circumstances that shape health — including one’s employment, education, neighborhood and family situation — to mental health and mortality.

“Because healthy women and children are the foundation of healthy, strong communities everywhere, it is critical that we understand the challenges they face,” said Dr. Lisa Saul, chief medical officer of maternal child health at UnitedHealthcare. “In order for the family to remain healthy, the woman in that family needs to be healthy. She is often responsible for keeping everyone else on track in terms of their health journey and their health goals.”

UnitedHealthcare hosted a Women’s Health Summit in February to share recent trends affecting women’s health with corporate human resources leaders.

“Our data show that women have a unique set of health care concerns and are at higher risk of developing certain conditions and diseases than men,” said Craig Kurtzweil, chief data & analytics officer at UnitedHealthcare. “These issues have an immense impact on the health and well-being of women and families across the country.”

Recent UnitedHealthcare claims data1 show trends in the utilization of the health care system and disease prevalence based on age, gender and ethnicity. Some key findings:

  • Women’s bodies go through major changes throughout their lives, leading to differences in health concerns for varying age groups.
  • Differences exist in the utilization patterns and health of women across ethnicities.
  • Many women not only manage their own ongoing health conditions, but they also play an important role in health care decision-making within their families and are often responsible for the bulk of caregiving for children and aging family members.

“Women are less likely than men to get continued care once they have a chronic condition — conditions like diabetes, heart disease, chronic lung disease. Men, once they get that wake-up call, are more likely to get care for that chronic condition,” said Dr. Rhonda Randall, chief medical officer at UnitedHealthcare.

According to the National Institutes of Health, women in the United States make approximately 80% of the health care decisions for their families.

“Employers are increasingly seeking benefits to help women and their families with things like care navigation, parental journey support and backup childcare,” said Jessica Paik, CEO of national accounts at UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual.

Addressing maternal health equity

Pregnancy-related mortality rates have declined around the world due to medical advancements. However, the United States has one of the highest maternal death rates among the world’s developed nations. And for Black women, the risk is even higher.

Black mothers are three to four times more likely to die from childbirth than those who are white or Hispanic. And a Black mother with a college education is at 60% greater risk for a maternal death than a white or Hispanic woman with less than a high school education.

“Employers should be mindful that you may have many, many women in your ranks that are going through their pregnancies, not with rainbows and butterflies, but literally afraid that they’re going to die during their pregnancy, during their childbirth, or in the postpartum period. The weight of that worry can impact a person’s ability to do their job,” Dr. Saul said.

Stephanie Fehr, chief people officer for UnitedHealthcare, said it’s important that employers create an atmosphere of psychological safety, which can improve retention and engagement.

“The human journey is really complicated,” Stephanie said. “And I think after the pandemic, what we learned is there are not a lot of boundaries between your personal life and your professional life. So, we have to get really savvy about making sure that we are equipped to deal with the individual needs of the employee.”

To hear more from the Women’s Health Leadership Summit, watch the video above.

Read more about understanding women’s health.

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