For years Virginians have known almost everything about the health and well-being of the Virginia oyster and blue crab, but very little about the health and health concerns of Virginia's 3.7 million women and girls. Women's Health Virginia 's Improving Women's Health Information research has been developed to provide, for the first time, statewide and regional data regarding the current health interests and use of health information by Virginia women and girls.
The first part of this research was a telephone survey, in May 2001, by Southeastern Institute of Research of Richmond. They spoke with a random sample of 1500 women from all areas of Virginia to learn about their health concerns, how they want to receive health information, and who and what they trust.
Women identified the following health issues as ones that concern them most:
These issues were more important than heart disease, domestic and sexual violence, nutrition, men's health, depression and mental health, sexually transmitted diseases, osteoporosis, addictions (such as to drugs and alcohol), fitness and weight, reproduction and contraception, aging and alternative medicine. (These issues are in descending order of the concern noted by respondents.)
Although respondents said their health is good (74% rated their health 7 or above on a ten-point scale), they indicated great concern about their health and health behaviors. 72% say they think about their health behaviors either "often" or "all the time" and almost all at least occasionally.
Most women want to change their eating or exercise behavior, despite past failures to do so. Nearly 70% want to change their eating-to eat healthier or deal with their weight-while nearly 40% say they want to exercise more. One of five women did not list a health behavior they want to change.
More than three-quarters reported a disease or illness in their family. Hypertension is most frequent, with 61% of the total and 72% of black women listing it. Many reported diabetes (42%), heart disease (38%), severe respiratory illness (35%), depression (34%) and cancer (32%).
Virginia women are actively seeking, comparing and evaluating information on health and wellness. Most are at least somewhat satisfied with the current availability of such information that interests them. But one of four are dissatisfied that available health information is easy to understand, easy to find or thorough. Nearly one in five is dissatisfied that it is up-to-date or reliable. Non-black minorities, women in the Southwest region, uninsured women and women 55 and older are the least satisfied with the information that is available to them.
When they get new health and wellness information, only 50% of Virginia women put it to use immediately and 8% ignore it. Most file it away for future reference, think about it before acting on it, ask their health care providers about it, compare it to other information and seek additional information. Most women question the source of new information.
Most Virginia women prefer learning about specific health and wellness topics from a doctor specializing in the field, primary care physician, reading about it, preferably as a summary in plain English.
Virginia women trust health information from doctor's office and hospitals the most. But these sources are less trusted by uninsured, women 55 and older, and women who are dissatisfied with current health information.
Women have varying trust in the media for health information, with differences noted in demographic and geographic groups.
Approximately one in five women trust health information from a clergy member or family and friends. Clergy are more trusted by uninsured, women under 25, women with high school education or less, black women and women in the Eastern and Southwest regions. Family and friends are more trusted by uninsured, women under 25 or 55 and older, women with high school education or less and women in the Southwest region and less trusted by women 25-34, black women and women in the North region.
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