Office on Violence Against Women
800 K Street, N.W., Suite 920
Washington, DC 20530

(202) 307-6026 phone
(202) 307-3911 fax
(202) 307-2277 TTY


National Sexual Violence Resource Center

 123 North Enola Drive 

Enola, Pennsylvania  17025
877-739-3895 (tollfree)

 717-909-0710 (phone)

717-909-0714 (fax)

717-909-0715 (TTY)


Reproductive Health

Women’s reproductive capacity plays an important role in shaping their lives and health experiences. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center over 80 percent of all American women have had a child by the age of 45, and the average woman has 2.2 children. While motherhood is a defining feature of adult life for many women, most spend the greater part of their reproductive years trying to avoid pregnancy. Sixty-four percent of women ages 15 to 44 use some form of contraception, up from 56 percent in 1982 and 60 percent in 1988.

Gynecological health is not only an important component of women’s health during their reproductive years, but throughout the course of their lives. The average woman spends a third of her life beyond menopause. While many older women mistakenly believe that regular gynecological exams are no longer necessary, this is precisely the point in life when they are at higher risk for cancers of the reproductive system and other gynecological problems such as uterine prolapse (O'Rourke, 2004).

Younger women are particularly at risk for reproductive health problems associated with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Two-thirds of all STD cases occur among individuals younger than 25 years, and one in four teenagers’ contracts an STD each year. Women are more susceptible biologically to becoming infected with STDs than are men, and younger women are more at risk than their older counterparts due to differences in their cervical anatomy. Women are less likely than men to experience symptoms of STD infection. In addition to the direct health problems caused by STD infection, high rates of STD infection in adolescent women contribute to an increased susceptibility to HIV.

For more information about reproductive health contact the following organizations:

American Social Health Association
P.O. Box 13827
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709

Voice: (919) 361-8400 Fax: (919) 361-8425


Welcome to the CDC
National STD Hotline

(800) 227-8922 or (800) 342-2437
En Español (800) 344-7432



Chronic Disabling Conditions

In part because they live longer than men, women are more likely to be affected by such chronic disabling conditions as diabetes, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. These conditions not only limit function, but over time they may be life-threatening. Each of these disorders is characterized by a long trajectory of increasing impairment. Chronic illnesses exert an untoward effect not only upon the person experiencing them but also upon family members and other care givers. One study found that the greater prevalence of nonfatal disabling conditions, including fractures, osteoporosis, back problems, osteoarthritis and depression, contributes substantially to greater disability and diminished quality of life among aging women compared with men (Murtagh et al. 2004). More research is needed to determine whether specific gender-related factors contribute to the increased incidence of these illnesses in women.

According to the National Institutes of Health, diabetes overview, there are 18.2 million people in the United States, or 6.3% of the population, who have diabetes. While an estimated 13 million have been diagnosed with diabetes, unfortunately, 5.2 million people are unaware that they have the disease. Approximately 9.3 million or 8.7% of all women over the age of 20 in the United States have diabetes. An estimated 16 million Americans have diabetes. The prevalence of diabetes is 2 to 4 times higher among Black, Hispanic, American Indian, and Asian Pacific Islander women than among white women.

Osteoporosis is a disorder characterized by the thinning and increasing brittleness of bones, a condition that can lead to bone fracture. According to the National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis overview, Osteoporosis is a major public health threat for 28 million Americans, 80% of whom are women. One out of every two women and one in eight men over 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime. Each year, osteoporosis causes 1.5 million fractures of the hip, wrist, vertebrae, and other bones. It accounts for 70 percent of all the fractures occurring every year annually in people over the age of 45. Twenty percent of the women who suffer a hip fracture die within one year of that event.

An estimated 4.5 million Americans, over half of whom are women, have Alzheimer's disease in the United States, a figure that is expected to more than triple by the year 2050 as the population ages (Kawas, 2003). Women far outnumber men as caregivers for family members with Alzheimer's disease. The chronic stress of caregiving can seriously affect a caregiver's health. In 1995, more than 13,600 women died from the disease. It is the most common cause of dementia for individuals over age 65. Alzheimer’s disease places a heavy burden on society, costing an estimated $80 to $100 billion each year.

For more information about chronic disabling conditions contact the following organizations:


American Diabetes Association
ATTN: National Call Center
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311

1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383)


National Osteoporosis Foundation

1232 22nd Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-1292

(202) 223.2226



The Future of Women’s Health

Women and men are differentiated by social and biological characteristics that are reflected in the patterns of health and illness found among them.  Gender equity and analysis promotes both women’s and men’s health.  It recognizes the significant influence of gender on health and attempts to address the underlying social and cultural differences.  Research on gender inequities in health has and will continue to lead to the development of different strategies addressing the needs of both women and men.  Specific outcomes of gender analysis include: the development of better-targeted programs, more gender sensitive practices, and more effective use of resources (Doyal 1998).  The development of a comprehensive women’s health strategy will address the needs of women from adolescence through adulthood producing better health outcomes.  Continued awareness and understanding of the importance of incorporating gender into health practice and policy will lead to improved health in both women and men. 



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