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Area women more susceptible to violence

BY LINDLEY ESTES

Women in the Fredericksburg area are susceptible to violence inflicted on them, indulging in risky behavior and breast cancer, according to recent research from the Women and Girls Fund of the Community Foundation.

The region, including Fredericksburg and its four surrounding counties, ranks in the top 25 percent in Virginia for violence, and homicide is one of the five leading causes of death in the region, said Angela Williams, who heads the fund’s research committee.

Mammogram rates are 16 percent below what health officials say is healthy.

The women’s’ rates of sexually transmitted infections and motor vehicle crashes, considered risky behaviors, are also above what is considered healthy for the region.

The research helps the fund in determining where grants should go to help advance the welfare of women and girls in the Rappahannock River region.

The organization is currently seeking grant proposals for its 2013 funding cycle.

The 40-page report establishes goals needed to overcome the risk factors for women in the area.

This was the second study published by the Women and Girls Fund. The first report dealt with economic issues, including a wage gap between men and women in the region.

In the report Wednesday, the fund used a health model created by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute for building healthier communities.

Using the standards established in the model, Stafford ranked 19th among Virginia’s healthiest communities. Spotsylvania is 32nd,

King George is 35th, Fredericksburg ranks 77th and Caroline came in at 83. There are 131 cities and counties in Virginia.

Williams said she hopes to make the Fredericksburg area a community in the top 10 percent of women’s health and wellness. Currently, the highest-rated community in Virginia is Fairfax.

Risky behaviors, one of the top three concerns in the Fredericksburg area, include sexually transmitted infections, teen pregnancy, motor vehicle crashes and excessive drinking.

The model community benchmark for infections is 84 infections per 100,000. The rate in Fredericksburg is 811 and Caroline is 366.

The goal for teen pregnancy is 22 out of every 1,000, but Fredericksburg has an average of 36 teen pregnancies per year. King George has 43 and Caroline teens are the most at risk with 51.

Violence toward women includes homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

The goal for a model community is 73 out of every 100,000. Fredericksburg sees 595 such incidents in the same sample size. Spotsylvania has 243. King George has the lowest rate at 140.

The third major concern facing area women, according to the Women and Girls Fund, is breast cancer.

Williams said the area, especially Stafford, has too high a number of women being diagnosed and dying from the disease.

Ideally, 74 percent of Medicare enrollees would receive mammograms.

However, 58 to 64 percent of eligible women in the area get the exam, with King George coming in lowest and Stafford and Spotsylvania at the high end of the spectrum.

“Low performance in these areas creates an environment that increases all women’s risk for higher disease burdens, higher rates of chronic conditions and diminished quality of life and productivity,” said the report. “Low performance also indicates persistent and systemic patterns of disparity.”

The Women and Girls Fund has completed three granting cycles, distributing more than $50,000 to programs that support services for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, and the need for teen education on respectful relationships, said a press release.

Their current request for grant proposals is focused on programs that seek to reduce risky behaviors, support early detection of breast cancer, and seek to reduce violence against women and girls. Grant proposals are due by Jan. 25, 2013.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976

lestes@freelancestar.com

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