According to a new survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 26% of women have delayed or avoided medical care in the past year, compared to just 20% of men. Unsurprisingly, low-income and uninsured women are the most likely to put off necessary treatments and preventative care.
But lack of insurance isn't the only thing that keeps female patients from going in for check-ups. Low-income workers (especially those making minimum wage at multiple jobs) typically have difficulty affording childcare, have less reliable access to transportation, and are less likely to be allotted sick days. Women also reported avoiding care because they were still working to pay off past medical bills.
Via the Atlantic:
Though women across income levels said they "couldn't find time" to go to the doctor, poor women were significantly more likely to say that they couldn't get time off work, couldn't get childcare, or weren't able to arrange transportation...This survey tracks with past research showing that it's rare for the lowest-earning workers to have sick days.
Women living below 200 percent of the poverty level were also more likely to say that they had a disability or chronic condition that limits their activity, and they were less likely to have had a recent general check-up. Uninsured women (not all of whom are low-income) were also less likely to have had screening tests for various chronic conditions.
We need more people to use preventive care in order to stem healthcare costs, reign in obesity rates, and help people live longer without disability.
It's worth clicking through to the Atlantic to see the infographics.
We do a lot of talking in American media—social and mainstream—about people taking "responsibility" for their "health." As though maintaining good health is easy, and neglecting it is a cavalier, decadent, and morally bankrupt "choice." We shame and penalize people because of the size and shape of their bodies, and justify it because they're "choosing" to be unhealthy and hey, we're just trying to "help."
Obesity, poverty, disability, chronic illness—these things are deeply enmeshed. Imagine you're working multiple jobs for less than a living wage. You can't afford a car, and you don't have time between jobs to cook food from scratch even if there were a grocery store an accessible distance from your house. You have a chronic illness, with weight gain as a side effect, that's left untreated because you can't get to the doctor because you can't afford to take time off work, and anyway, childcare is at least $10 an hour and you only make $7.50. When people see you on the street, they mock you for being "lazy" and "driving up health care costs." They come at you with "why don't you just..." and scold you for not "taking care of yourself."
It's a neat trick—blaming individuals for the system that victimizes them. Let's stop doing that.
Image via Everett Collection/Shutterstock.