Women's Health

The rate that St. Louis women experience major health events reported to the Missouri Department of Health per 100,000 women

Equity Score
Indicator scores are represented on a scale from 1 to 100.
Disparity Ratio
Disparity direction: black-white
Major health events per 100,000 women

Black women are twice as likely to experience major health events as white women.

Source: Missouri Department of Health and Human Services

A score of 100 represents racial equity, meaning there are no racial disparities in outcomes. The lower the Equity Score, the greater the disparity.

For Women’s Health, a score of 100 — a score reflecting racial equity — would mean black and white women are equally likely to experience major health events. It is important to note that for this indicator, equity is not our only goal: we also want to improve outcomes for all. 

More Information

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What does this indicator measure?

Women’s Health measures the rate that St. Louis women experience major health events reported to the Missouri Department of Health per 100,000 women. Major health events include injuries, cancer cases, hospitalizations, and ER visits (for more detail, see table at the end of this indicator). In 2016, we estimate that adult women experienced 1,806 major health events based on an annual rate of 1,386.37 major health events per 100,000 women. In almost every category, black women were more likely than white women to get sick, visit the Emergency Room due to injury, or be hospitalized for illnesses and diseases. 

Women’s Health analysis

Age-adjusted rates of major health events per 100,000 women in St. Louis City.

  All Black White Disparity Ratio Equity Score
Average number of annual major health events for women 1,806 1,109 544 - -
Adult women 130,428 60,409 61,972 - -
Major health events per 100,000 adult women 1,384.4 1,835.6 878.0 2.091 to 1 40

Data Source: Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, Missouri Resident Women’s Health Profile, various years. American Community Survey 1-year estimates, 2016

What does this analysis mean?

Black women are twice as likely as white women to experience major health events. The most common major health events for black women are assault injuries (1,020 per 100,000 women), heart disease hospitalizations (180 per 100,000), and breast cancer cases (158 per 100,000). The most common major events for white women are assault injuries (244 per 100,000), breast cancer cases (163 per 100,000), and self-inflicted injuries (135 per 100,000).

If women’s health were equitable, black women would suffer 579 fewer major health events per year. 

Data Note: Major health events include cases of lung cancer, breast cancer, and cervical cancer, and hospitalizations for heart disease, stroke, chronic lower respiratory disease, musculoskeletal issues, diabetes, pneumonia and influenza, intentional injury, inflammatory pelvic disease, hysterectomies, and mastectomies. Rates are per year per 100,000 population and are age-adjusted to the U.S. 2000 standard population. The age-adjusted rates are rates that would have existed if the population under study had the same age distribution as the "standard" population. Age adjusting rates is a way to make fairer comparisons between groups with different age distributions. Data year differs depending on the disease.

Why does Women’s Health matter?

Women are the social and economic cornerstone of many families. According to 2016 American Community Survey data, women-led households represent 49% of all family households in St. Louis, supporting an average of 3.4 people (more than any other type of household, including married couples). Women's health is affected by complex socioeconomic and environmental factors, including poverty, employment, and neighborhood. However, many treatments for disease and illness were developed based only on clinical trials of men, despite there being differences by sex for risk factors, symptoms, and responses to treatment. 

Which Calls to Action from the Ferguson Commission report are linked with this indicator?

While the Ferguson Commission report did not explicitly call out women’s health, the calls to actions related to this indicator include:

Questions for further investigation

  • Why is there a racial disparity in Women’s Health? 
  • What can St. Louis do to reduce racial disparities in Women’s Health?
  • What initiatives are currently underway to reduce racial disparities in Women’s Health?

How can I learn more about this issue?

The Boston University Black Women’s Health Study is an ongoing study that has regularly surveyed a cohort of 59,000 black women about their health since 1995. While hundreds of research papers have used the study’s data over the years, a good entry point for readers is the Black Women’s Health Imperative's 2016 publication "IndexUS: What Healthy Black Women Can Teach Us About Health."

There are few studies focused on the health of black women in St. Louis or Missouri, with the exception of maternal health. The most recent study of black health from 2015 by For the Sake of All frames health issues of women who are not mothers or pregnant as "preconception," and focuses on women in the reproductive health section. In 2013, the Missouri Foundation for Health commissioned a study on "African American Health Disparities in Missouri," which includes chapters on Cancer, Emergency Room Visits, and Inpatient Hospitalizations, in addition to Maternal Health. Some of these chapters break out women’s and men’s rates separately. 


Women’s Health Index

Age-adjusted rates of major health events per 100,000 women in St. Louis City.

Age-adjusted rates per 100,000 women
  Major Health Event Black White Disparity Ratio
1 Assault Injuries 1,020.2 243.61 4.19
2 Heart Disease Hospitalizations 179.95 86.95 2.07
3 Breast Cancer Cases 157.96 162.83 0.97
4 Self-inflicted Injuries 129.27 134.88 0.96
5 Lung Cancer Cases 81.86 78.29 1.05
6 Diabetes Hospitalizations 50.46 12.99 3.88
7 Stroke Hospitalizations 45.57 24.74 1.84
8 Pneumonia and Influenza Hospitalizations 41.6 30.27 1.37
9 Hysterectomies 35.17 21.05 1.67
10 Chronic Lower Respiratory Disease Hospitalizations 28.73 21.14 1.36
11 Osteoarthritis Hospitalizations 21.12 30.66 0.69
12 Cervical Cancer Cases 16.59 9.67 1.72
13 Inflammatory Pelvic Disease ER Visits 11.56 1.46 7.92
14 Menstrual Disorder ER Visits 5.96 1.29 4.62
15 Breast Cancer Surgical Treatment 5.82 6.55 0.89
16 Hip Fracture Hospitalizations 3.8 11.66 0.33
  Summary 1835.62 878.04 2.09


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