HARRISBURG, Pa., -- Results of a statewide pain survey released today revealed that chronic pain is widespread among Pennsylvania women but often left untreated. Many women, the study found, do not seek care for their pain because they believe insurance companies do not cover pain-related conditions as comprehensively as they do other, "more traditional" conditions such as heart disease, hypertension, and high cholesterol.
These findings were unveiled today in Harrisburg by the Black Women's Health Alliance "Women in Pain: Women in Power" network. The network highlights health and gender disparities surrounding pain prevalence, the communication and treatment of chronic pain, and the payment of pain-related treatments by health insurance companies.
"It is important that pain is not just viewed as a 'state of mind' but as a legitimate and real medical condition. To provide equality to women of all races across the state, we need to do a better job and provide fair and just policies to prevent health disparities and promote good practices," stated Brenda Shelton-Dunston, MPH, Executive Director of the Black Women's Health Alliance.
The survey, conducted by WomanTrend, a division of The Polling Company, found that two-thirds of women inPennsylvania have experienced or are currently experiencing a primary chronic pain condition or chronic pain that results from another disease or condition. More importantly, 54% of those suffering from chronic pain do not frequently seek treatment for their pain, even when the pain is severe enough to interfere with their daily lives. When asked why, 69% of women stated that they believe insurance companies are "less willing" to cover or reimburse for treatments of chronic pain than they are to cover treatments for "more traditional" diseases or conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Additionally, more than 90% of women across the state believed that health insurance companies should cover pain-related treatments and medications at the same level they cover for these more "traditional" diseases or conditions.
"It is discouraging to see that although chronic pain seems to be running rampant among the women in our state, most are suffering in silence and not seeking out the care they need," said Shelton-Dunston. "Only twenty percent of women will visit their doctor when they're in pain. This poll provides some insight into why. The fact that women don't feel like they will be taken seriously and that healthcare insurers won't cover their treatments certainly looks like part of the problem."
Results of the December 2009 survey also indicate that communication barriers for women exist, but vary accordingly to ethnicity. For instance, black women in Philadelphia were notably more apt to believe that women are more inclined than men to share their ailments with their doctors and healthcare providers.
"With such diversity across the state and in Philadelphia alone, it is important for patients to be able to communicate and talk about the diseases, conditions and symptoms they're experiencing," Rev. Dr. Geraldine Pemberton, RN, MBA, President, Genesis Ministers Conference, PA Baptist Clergy Women, Inc.
In terms of how women view chronic pain, seven-in-ten women said it should be described as a condition, compared with 14% who thought it should be classified as a disease, 4% as a state of mind. Sixty-four percent of women were more inclined to believe that pain is a symptom of another disease or condition rather than the pain being the disease or condition itself.
"For diseases like fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, among others that tend to be more prevalent in women, these statistics give the perception that the disease is the effect rather than the cause of many women's suffering," stated Carol Jay Levy, B.A., CH.t, author A PAINED LIFE, a chronic pain journey. "It is clear that more education needs to be provided to increase the public's awareness of conditions that pain is the primary or only symptom."
Women are also more likely than men to seek medical advice with respect to pain. The survey found that:
More than 600 Pennsylvania women aged 18-65 from across the state were interviewed for this survey with an oversample of women in Philadelphia. The survey was fielded December 7-10, 2009. The survey was distributed by the Black Women's Health Alliance and was funded through Pfizer, Inc.
The margin of error for the 400 interviews conducted in Pennsylvania is +/-4.5% at a 95% confidence interval, meaning that in 19 out of 20 cases, the data obtained would not differ by more than 4.5 percentage points in either direction if the survey were repeated multiple times employing this methodology and sampling method.
Of the 400 interviews conducted statewide, 12%, or 48 interviews, were conducted in Philadelphia. So that thePhiladelphia subgroup would be large enough for independent analysis, an oversample of 203 additional interviews was conducted in Philadelphia. The margin of error for the Philadelphia subgroup, inclusive of main sample and oversample interviews, is +/-6.2%.
Interviews were conducted at a Computer-Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI) facility using live callers. The sampling frame was drawn using both listed and unlisted household samples in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia. The sample was drawn using random digit dialing (RDD), a method by which a computer randomly selects a household for interviewing. Upon connecting with a female, the potential respondent was screened to eligibility to participate (based on year of birth). Sampling controls were used to ensure that a proportional and representative number of people were interviewed from such demographic groups as age, race and ethnicity, and region according to the most recent figures available from the U.S. Census Bureau. Data were weighted slightly following data collection.
About Black Women's Health Alliance
The Black Women's Health Alliance, the new name of the Philadelphia Black Women's Health Project, was established to improve healthcare outcomes and eliminate and/or reduce health disparities experiences by women of African Ancestry, other women of color, and their families through advocacy, education, research and support activities, programs and services. The "Women in Pain: Women in Power" initiative is a Pennsylvania Plan to Engage Women's Voices. This project engages women's voices in Pennsylvania to educate policymakers, members of the public and key medical providers about the gender bias against women when it comes to accessing health care and fighting insurance barriers.
SOURCE The Black Women's Health Alliance