Informing policy. Inspiring change. Improving lives.
1200 18th Street NW, Suite 301
Washington, DC 20036
202 785-5100

Health & Safety

Health and Safety



Economic Security for Survivors




About Health & Safety

Women have a set of specific concerns when it comes to health. More often than not, women make the majority of health care-related decisions regarding health issues for their families, are the primary caregivers, and spend more than their male counterparts on health (KFF 2009; Agency for 2004). While women, on average, are more likely than men to have health insurance, they are at special risk of a number of specific health conditions, such as depression and exposure to intimate partner violence. Low-income women and women of color are especially likely to experience poor health outcomes, with African American women, in particular, showing much higher rates of HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and infants with low birth weight. These realities make consideration of woman-specific issues vitally important to policy decisions in the area of health.

IWPR’s research on women’s health and safety informs policy decisions by identifying gender and racial/ethnic disparities in health outcomes and access to health care services in addition to highlighting opportunities for improvement. IWPR’s reports and resources discuss a range of policy issues including access to paid sick days, the relationship between women’s health and socio-economic status, cost-benefit analyses of paid sick days provision, and rates of breastfeeding.

An IWPR fact sheet reported that 44 million workers in the United States lacked paid sick days in 2010, with 77 percent of food service workers lacking access. Preceding the passage of the first state-wide paid sick days legislation in the United States in Connecticut, IWPR estimated that Connecticut taxpayers would save $4.7 million annually in a cost-benefit analysis of universal paid sick days provision.

Recent reports on policy impacts on breastfeeding rates estimate that the breastfeeding protections in the 2010 Affordable Care Act will increase the national rate of breastfeeding through six months of age by four full percentage points, giving more women and their children the opportunity to draw from the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, such as protection from childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome, and diabetes.


View our external resources page or multimedia page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

No Time To Be Sick: Why Everyone Suffers When Workers Don’t have Paid Sick Leave
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (June 2004)

Expansion of paid sick leave and integration of family caregiving activities into authorized uses of paid sick leave are crucial work and health supports for workers, their families, employers, and our communities at large.

#B242, 27 pages
Preview not available

Policy Update on Safe and Legal Abortion, 30 Years after Roe v. Wade
by Deanna Bruce and Sarah Benatar (October 2003)

In the three decades since the decision, Roe v. Wade has had far-reaching effects on women’s health and economic well-being. Today, however, a number of political efforts threaten to overturn the basic tenets of the decision.

#B241, 4 pages

The Fiscal Viability of New Jersey Family Leave Insurance
by Michelle Naples and Meryl Frank (December 2001)

The private needs of the family are now at the forefront of the national political agenda as a result of changes in the workforce and in family demographics. The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) is the cornerstone of the family policy movement. This act allows an unpaid leave of absence for employed family members who need to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a seriously ill relative. Its benefits to working families are well documented (US DOL 1996; Cantor et al. 2000).


Family Leave for Low-Income Working Women: Providing Paid Leave through Temporary Disability Insurance, The New Jersey Case
by Michele I. Naples (October 2001)

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provided for unpaid time off from work to care for sick relatives or a newborn or adopted child, guaranteeing leave-takers’ jobs when they returned to work. Low-wage workers and single parents, however, cannot fully benefit from the FMLA because it offers no replacement income. In families that depend on women’s earnings to maintain living standards, unpaid time off from work threatens family finances that are already strained by the costs of bearing and providing for a new child, or the costs of health care for a sick family member. To ensure that those most in need of the protections of the FMLA can take advantage of the law, New Jersey is one among several states considering legislation to provide Family-Leave Insurance (FLI): paid leave to care for newborn babies and adopted children (BAA), and paid family-disability leave (FDL) to care for an ill child, spouse, or elderly parent. This Research-in-Brief summarizes a research project conducted by Michele I. Naples and Meryl Frank that examined proposals in New Jersey for paid family and medical leave programs. It discusses the policy context in which these programs are being considered and details the technical considerations behind estimating the cost of providing family leave insurance.


The Widening Gap: A New Book on the Struggle to Balance Work and Caregiving
by Hedieh Rahmanou (September 2001)

This Research-in-Brief is based on selected findings from a new book by Jody Heymann, Director of Policy at the Harvard Center for Society and Health. Published by Basic Books in 2000, The Widening Gap: Why America’s Working Families are in Jeopardy and What Can Be Done About It reveals the failure of our nation’s employer-based support system to help families meet their caregiving responsibilities. Copyright permission was granted by Perseus Books LLC.

Preview not available

Living With or Dying From Breast Cancer a Matter of Race
by IWPR (May 2001)

Preview not available

The Influence of Income, Education, and Work Status on Women's Well Being (Published by Women's Health Issues)
by Holly Mead, Kristine Witkowski, Barbara Gault, and Heidi Hartmann (May 2001)

Preview not available

Making Birth Control More Accessible to Women: A Cost-Benefit Analysis of Over-the-Counter Oral Contraceptives
by Holly Mead, Bethany Snyder (February 2001)

Evaluates costs and benefits of switching birth control pills to over-the-counter status to improve women's access to contraceptives.


Paid Family and Medical Leave: Supporting Working Families in Illinois
by Vicky Lovell, Ph.D. (September 2000)

Preview not available

The Safety of Silicone Breast Implants
by Diana Zuckerman (August 1998)

Outlines the history of the use of silicone for breast enlargements to the present. Details the absence of manufacturers' proof of safety and efficacy and summarizes known and unknown health risks. An estimated one million U.S. women have breast implants.

Preview not available

The Costs of Domestic Violence
by Stephanie Aaronson and Nicoletta Karam (May 1997)

Preview not available

Measuring the Costs of Domestic Violence Against Women and the Cost-Effectiveness of Interventions: An Initial Assessment and Proposals for Further Research
by Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D., Louise Laurence, Roberta Spalter-Roth, and Diana M. Zuckerman (April 1997)

This review paper was prepared by the Institute for Women's Policy Research as part of a joint project with Victim Services, Inc. and the Domestic Violence Training Project.

Preview not available

Measuring the Costs of Domestic Violence Against Women
by Stacey Friedman, Jackie Chu, and Heidi Hartmann (December 1996)

Preview not available

Employment and Women's Health
by Joan Kuriansky, Christine Owens, Heidi Hartmann (October 1996)

This analysis of the Commonwealth Fund 1993 of Women's Health examines whether working women are healthier. Finds that employed women are healthier, particularly those with health insurance, than women who are not employed. Discusses policy implications for older women and part-time workers. Published in Women's Health: The Commonwealth Fund Survey, Marilyn M. Falik and Karen Scott Collins, 1996.

Preview not available

Providing Paid Family Leave: Estimating the Cost of Expanding California's Disability Insurance Program
by Stephanie Aaronson (June 1995)

Testimony before the U.S. Comission on Family and Medical Leave, San Francisco, CA. Estimates teh cost of expanding California's Temporary Disability INsurance Program and examines the feasibility of using the temporary disability insurance model to provide paid family leave to workers. Argues that paid family and medical elave is economically feasible.

Preview not available

Summary Chart of Documented Cost Savings of Selected Women's Health Services
by Stephanie Aaronson and Nicoletta Karam (August 1994)

Preview not available

Impact of an Employer Mandate on Women's Access to Health Care
by Young-Hee Yoon and Robin Dennis (July 1994)

President Clinton's proposed Health Security Act (HSA) guarantees all Americans health insurance coverage regardless of their marital status, employment status, or socioeconomic status. A new report by IWPR, Women's Access to Health Insurance, estimates how the workplace guarantee-- or employer mandate-- proposed by the President would affect women's access to health insurance.


Women's Health Insurance Costs and Experiences
by Women's Research and Education Institute (June 1994)

This report is part of the Join Project on Women's Health Care Policy Research of the Women's Research and Education Institute and the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The project was funded by the Kaiser Family Foundation, as part of the Kaiser Health Reform Project. This report focuses on health insurance coverage and expenditures for reproductive and preventive services among women of childbearing age (age 15 to 44). It provides the latest and most comprehensive measures of' the adequacy of women's health insurance coverage for all health care services and for reproductive and preventive health services in particular. Measurements of the adequacy of health insurance coverage used in this report include: 1) the percent of total expenditures covered by health insurance; 2) the level of out-of-pocket expenditures; and 3) out-of-pocket expenditures in relation to income.


Women's Access to Health Insurance: Excerpts
by (June 1994)

Overall, women are more likely than men to have insurance coverage. Our findings show that in 1990, 15 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 64, or 12 million women, are uninsured compared to 19 percent, or 14 million men. Women are less likely to have insurance through their own employers (direct employer-based insurance) than are men.


Women’s Access to Health Insurance
by (June 1994)

Women have a unique relationship to the health care system in the United States that needs to be taken into account in health care reform. Compared with men, women use more health care services and pay more for them as a proportion of their income. They are also responsible for facilitating their families' use of health care and for ensuring the health of infants and children.

Document Actions
Go to Home Page