The federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau has been exploring the role of the Title V program in women's health. This expansion of the MCH population of focus means that state and local public health data needs on women will continue to grow.
There also have been recent and ongoing demographic shifts in women's social roles: more women with young children are in the labor force, and there are increases in the number of women who are simultaneously providing parenting and elderly caregiver roles. These roles have been shown to be associated with health care utilization, and it is of interest to learn more about this association, as well as the impact of these social role shifts on population health and the policies that support these various roles.
Consequently, the WCHPC developed two survey instruments. The first instrument was developed to collect information on women's health care utilization patterns. This instrument, the Women's Health Care Experiences Survey (WHCES), measures women's utilization of health services, including a comprehensive set of questions and topic areas that are not measured in sufficient detail or from women's perspectives in existing national surveys. It captures several features of women's health services use, including access, affordability, characteristics of care, and sources and use of health information.
The WHCES instrument examines the full scope of interactions with the health system (including the use of alternative/complementary services, etc.) and will reveal more about the nature of need, provider types, frequency of use, combinations of providers, and the sources of health-related information.
The WHCES instrument was field tested with a sample of 509 women in the Baltimore MSA, ages 18-64, contacted through random-digit dialing procedures; testing was completed in March 2000. Findings from the pilot study informed survey revisions.
Findings from the pilot test were published in two manuscripts, cited below; additional manuscripts are forthcoming.
Developed to support the WHCES, the tool set "State Strategies for Improving Data on Women's Health" has multiple components, including the women's health care experiences survey instrument, the second survey instrument that is a women's social roles and health care utilization supplement, a section that describes potential approaches for state-level data collection, and four tables that describe national survey data collection efforts relevant to women's health and compare them with the items in and data that can be collected from the WHCES.
Faculty taking the lead on this project are Carol Weisman, Wanda Nicholson, Holly Grason, Cynthia Minkovitz, and Patricia O'Campo.