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Health & Safety

Health and 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 suggested resources page or multimedia page for more information on this topic.

Latest Reports from IWPR

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Unnecessary Losses:Costs to Americans for the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Ph.D, and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D (May 1991)

Unnecessary Losses concludes that the costs to workers and taxpayers of the current lack of national policy are many times greater than the cost to business of having a national policy. Having a national leave policy would reduce the costs to workers and society of the socially necessary tasks of childbirth, child care and eldercare, or of illness, because having the right to return to their jobs would reduce unemployment and earnings losses for workers who must be absent for these reasons.

 

Unnecessary Losses to African American Workers
by (April 1990)

When a person temporarily leaves their employment because of the arrival of a child, illness of a family member, or her or his own illness, economic costs arise for three groups: workers, employers, and society. Workers in the U.S. lose enormous amounts in earnings from absence due to illness and family care-- an estimated $100 billion annually. Of these losses, at least $12 billion can be attributed to the lack of job protected leave. In addition, there are substantial outlays by taxpayers for unemployment compensation, welfare payments, Supplemental Security Income, etc. when workers do not have the right to return to their jobs-- an estimated $4.3 billion.

 
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Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans in the States of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave
by (August 1989)

Despite widespread agreement that employment policies should be responsive to the needs of working families, Congress is currently engaged in debate about a national leave policy that would require minimum protections against job loss because of family and medical needs. The proposed policy would provide protections against job loss if a worker takes a short, unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, the care of a seriously ill child or parent, or the worker's own illness. Although some businesses object the the cost of a national policy, the cost to workers, and to society at large, of not having such a policy is often overlooked.

 
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The Importance of Health Benefits in the Telecommunications Industry
by Roberta Spalter-Roth and Linda Andrews (August 1989)

 
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Costs to Women and Their Families of Childbirth and Lack of Parental Leave
by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Heidi Hartmann (October 1987)

Testimony before the Subcommittee on Children, Families, Drugs and Alcoholism, Committee on Labor and Human Resources, U.S., using figures and charts from IWPR's study Unnecessary Losses: Costs to Americans of the Lack of Family and Medical Leave.

 
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