Women’s History Month reminds us to pay tribute to the generations of women who have contributed to the growth of our nation, in public and private life. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and recognize the extraordinary achievements women have made throughout history, I’d also like to reflect on the accomplishments the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made over the last year to improve the lives of women and girls.
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 26.9 million women now have expanded access to health coverage and important preventive care. This means women can receive screenings like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, and their annual well-woman visits without a co-pay, coinsurance, or a deductible. We also launched the Health Insurance Marketplace, so for the 18.6 million women who are uninsured, there’s now an easier way for them to find insurance that fits their needs at a price they can afford. All private plans within the Marketplace must cover a set of essential health benefits — including many services important to women — like maternity and newborn care. In the individual market alone, 8.7 million Americans will gain maternity coverage because of the health care law. And perhaps most importantly, you can no longer be charged more for health insurance just because you’re a woman.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection rates in teen girls have been driven down 56 percent, thanks to vaccination. A new study shows that since the vaccine was introduced in 2006, the number of 14- to 19-year-old girls who have one of the types of HPV prevented by vaccine has dropped significantly. Why is this important? According to the CDC, HPV causes about 19,000 cancers in women each year; with cervical cancer being the most common.
The U.S. teen birth rate is at an all-time low. In 2012, we found that birth rates for teenagers 15–19 dropped to 29.4 per 1,000 — the lowest ever reported. Since 1991, the rate for teens 15–17 has fallen 63 percent, and the rate for teens 18–19 has fallen 45 percent. We also saw declines across all racial and ethnic groups.
We know more about intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and stalking victimization in the U.S. than ever before. For the first time, CDC’s National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey collected data on the intersection of these types of violence and sexual orientation. The survey showed that those who identified themselves as lesbian, gay, or bisexual reported intimate partner violence and sexual violence over their lifetimes at levels equal to or higher than heterosexuals.
- More than 12 million medically underserved women received quality, culturally competent primary care in 2012, thanks to the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Health Center Program. Cultural competence ensures that a doctor or nurse is able to provide diverse patients with care that is respectful of their cultural and health beliefs, using appropriate languages and tools.
As you can see, it’s been a busy but exciting year — and these are just our top five highlights in women’s and girls’ health! I look forward to continuing our momentum as champions for the wellbeing of all Americans. Learn more about how we’re expanding access to quality care by visiting HealthCare.gov.
Kathleen Sebelius is the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.