Income important in tracking health status

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. Income is an important variable in the quality of health care that people receive, and should be included in systems that monitor health status, writes Roger T. Anderson, Ph.D., of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, in a commentary in the October issue of Women's Health Issues.

"Despite federal initiatives to eliminate disparities in health care, key data that are necessary to monitor success are not collected routinely," says Anderson. "We cannot manage what we don't measure."

Anderson, an associate professor of public health sciences, says that proposed legislation, the "Cancer Survivorship Research and Quality of Life Act of 2003," offers the perfect opportunity to begin to collect this vital information. The bill would expand current cancer surveillance systems and develop a program to monitor and evaluate quality cancer care and survivorship.

"This is an ideal time to address the long-neglected need to assess and report on the quality of care of women with cancer especially those with financial hardship and those who are underserved minorities," says Anderson. "Currently, the health care of the uninsured is virtually invisible."

Anderson proposes that the cancer registry and other tracking systems include insurance status and income level as indicators of poverty.

"Decades of research on how social class links to health outcomes have shown that a lack of health insurance, living in impoverished neighborhoods, and social and contextual barriers to accessing health care place people in poverty at a disadvantage with respect to preventing disease, managing illness and survival," said Anderson.

He said that poverty is an especially relevant issue in women's health because the number of uninsured women has grown three times faster than the number of uninsured men. In addition, programs that support health insurance for the poor, such as Medicaid, are threatened by state budget deficits.


Contact: Karen Richardson or Shannon Koontz
Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

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