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Medical Alert

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To the 3.3 million women living in New York City:

We thought you—among the toughest and most streetwise women in the country—ought to know the state of your health.

A report released this spring by the city’s health department emphasized that although New York’s poorest women disproportionately experience health problems, women representing every age group, race, and income bracket have reasons to be concerned about themselves too.

Some health crises target the young: AIDS is the number one killer of women ages 25 to 44, with 322 deaths per year—ending more lives than breast cancer and drug use combined. Others, like heart disease, are far more common in women 45 and older.

Neighborhoods where 30 percent of the population lives in poverty have the highest rates of obesity among women—not surprising, considering 44 percent of New York City’s women who are heads of households make less than $25,000 a year. Only 24 percent of the city’s adult women exercise.

Lower-income women, particularly Hispanic women, more frequently described feeling “emotional distress,” a measure of anxiety, depression, and similar problems. Fifty-six percent of women in distress also reported fair or poor health. Another potential measure of distress: One in three white women ages 18 to 24 binge-drink—compared to fewer than one in 10 black women in the same age group.

In 2003, an estimated 661,000 women in New York City were uninsured at some point. Twenty percent of the uninsured made less than $25,000 a year. Women without insurance are almost three times more likely to go to an emergency room for care than those with coverage—an indicator of lack of access to regular doctors.

Cancer—especially of the breast, cervix, bronchus, trachea, or lung—causes the most premature deaths among women. The average smoker dies 14 years younger than a nonsmoker. What you do now—smoke—or what you don’t do now—get Pap tests and mammograms—could translate into entire years cut from your life.

So take care of yourselves! We’ve included listings of clinics, hotlines, and services you can use to get in the best shape possible.

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