Health Policy

Self-reported health status of low-income mothers.

Salsberry, P.J.; Nickel, J.T.; Polivka, B.J.; Kuthy, R.A.; Slack, C.; Shapiro, N.


PURPOSE: To determine the self-reported health status of low-income mothers before major health and welfare policy reform in the state of Ohio, to compare the health status of this group with the general population age-based norms, and to examine differences in health status among insurance and racial subgroups. Policy makers and others have a need for key health-status information about low-income mothers, a topic for which little empirical data currently exist.

DESIGN: Descriptive using a cross-sectional survey with convenience sampling; 502 women were interviewed at intake sites in four countries in central Ohio, 1995 to 1996.

METHODS: Health status was measured using the general health status index developed by J. E. Ware and colleagues (1995). Two summary measures, one indicating physical health and one indicating mental health, were used and compared with published norms. Multivariate logistic models were examined for depression and physical health status.

FINDINGS: A significant level of depression in the population of low-income mothers was found as were differences in physical health scores by insurance group. People insured privately had the highest physical health scores, while those enrolled in fee-for-service Medicaid had scores indicating the poorest health. No significant difference was found between racial groups in self-reported health status.

CONCLUSIONS: Self-reported mental health status is low among some low-income female populations. Physical health is worse for the Medicaid-enrolled group compared to both uninsured and privately insured groups. This poor state of health will likely diminish the success of welfare reform to improve the economic self-sufficiency of these women unless comprehensive health services are available.