Women's Health Confernece Open With Grim Data

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Statistics cited Wednesday by state Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce at the start of a conference on women's health issues in Nevada were grim.

The state ranks among the lowest in per-person health care spending, and Nevada women rank below the national average for survival of breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancers, said Pierce, a breast cancer survivor.

"Nevada is at the wrong end of the worst lists," said Pierce, D-Las Vegas. "Nevada must start putting resources into health care services."

She referred to data from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., showing Nevada had the fourth-highest cancer death rate for women in 2000, while the cancer death rate for men ranked 28th.

The state also ranked 51st among states and the District of Columbia in Medicaid spending per person in 2001, said John Sasser, statewide advocacy coordinator with the Washoe Legal Aid office in Reno.

Pierce and three other state legislators - Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, and Assemblywoman Dawn Gibbons, R-Reno - offered no solutions during an agenda-setting breakfast with 45 people at the 2003 First Lady's Conference on Women's Health Issues.

The lawmakers were part of a contentious legislative session this year that led to the passage of a record two-year, $5 billion state budget. The percentage of the budget allocated for human services, including various health initiatives, was the same as in the prior two-year budget.

Dema Guinn, wife of Gov. Kenny Guinn, called Pierce's statistics "very bleak," and said highlighting and addressing the continuing need was the reason she was hosting the conference through Friday in Las Vegas.

"We've been trying to change that," Guinn said.

The conference, held every other year since 1997, includes seminars for health professionals and educators. This year, it added a public expo hosted by the Southern Nevada Area Health Education Center and the Nevada State Health Division at Cashman Center.

Pierce said she drew data from U.S. Census, National Cancer Institute and Kaiser Family Foundation reports.

"I had no idea that Nevada was so bad for your health," she said in an interview. "There are just too many people in this state who die of diseases we know how to cure."


On the Net:

Southern Nevada Area Health Education Center: http://www.snahec.org

Kaiser Family Foundation State Health Facts: www.statehealthfacts.kff.org

U.S. Census Bureau: www.census.gov

National Cancer Institute; Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results: http://seer.cancer.gov