Pandemic has caused more women than men to postpone health care, a survey found


Like many women across Connecticut, New Britain’s Isabella Vasquez has missed or postponed healthcare appointments due to the pandemic.

A postponement of doctor’s appointments became necessary for the 23-year-old cleaning lady when the coronavirus pandemic affected the childcare of her 2-year-old son.

“I sometimes didn’t have to go to my appointments because I didn’t have childcare,” she said. “When COVID struck, day care became less reliable.” If her son sneezed or had a runny nose, the daycare would not accept him, explained Vasquez.


More women than men have either missed medical appointments or postponed treatment they thought needed during the height of the pandemic, according to a DataHaven poll recently published in October of more than 5,000 randomly selected residents of the state.

The 2021 Community Wellbeing Survey found that 12 percent of women failed to get the health care they need in the past year, compared with 10 percent of men. Similarly, 34 percent of women postponed health care they thought they needed over the same period, while 26 percent of men said they had postponed treatment.

The numbers are higher than the 2018 Community Wellness Survey, which found 9 percent of women and men skip medical care. However, more women than men postponed the medical care they felt was necessary, at 26 percent versus 20 percent.

“We women tend to take care of everyone else and neglect ourselves,” said Cara Westcott, chief operating officer of United Community & Family Services, which operates five health centers in east Connecticut. The higher numbers make sense, she added, as the pandemic has brought increased childcare obligations and distance learning challenges that are often borne by women.

Hispanic women nationwide are disproportionately affected when it comes to access to health care, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation women’s health survey that found that 40 percent of Hispanic women skip preventive health services and 25 percent skip a recommended medical test or treatment.

The report by the nonprofit DataHaven also found that Latinos and low-income adults are less likely to have insurance and are more likely to skip or delay medical care.

From May 24 to August 30, 2021, 32 percent of uninsured women said they had not received required health care in the previous 12 months, compared with 25 percent of uninsured men. When it came to postponing medical care, 51 percent of uninsured women postponed treatment they felt was necessary, compared with 38 percent of uninsured men.

At UCFS, Westcott said she had seen a 25 percent decrease in the number of patients in 2020 across all populations compared to previous years.

“We saw a decrease in the number of unique patients between calendar year 2019 and calendar year 2020 of approximately 5,000 patients,” she said, “and we attribute this to people who forego care during the pandemic despite offering telemedicine appointments to have. ”

Fluctuating employment and health insurance status also played a role, she said.

The DataHaven survey, carried out in collaboration with the Siena College Research Institute, found that 24 percent of respondents said they had lost their job in the past year.

UCFS, which provides medical, dental, and behavioral services, recorded 20,000 individual patients each year prior to the pandemic, according to Westcott. At the end of 2020, 15,000 patients were treated.

“When we saw these numbers go down, we put together strategies and work plans to get them back,” she said, including launching social media and radio marketing campaigns. “Since the beginning of this year, we have been trying to contact patients we did not see in 2020 in order to bring them back into treatment.”

Women who missed routine checkups like mammograms and Pap smears last year due to pandemic precautions at health departments now have the opportunity to be seen, said Dr. Mark Silvestri, chief medical officer of the medical and dental services at Cornell Scott Hill Health Center in New Haven.

“I definitely think that our ability to provide telehealth services enabled women who were at home to care for children to have access to health care,” he said, “but telemedicine is not appropriate for some health needs.”

Screening appointments scheduled for March through June 2020 when patients weren’t seen in person have been postponed to a later date, he said.

“We kept an eye on all the women we had moved back then and brought them back in immediately,” said Silvestri. The backlog in routine screening appointments balanced out between late 2020 and early 2021, he added.

Vasquez was one of the women who missed their annual Pap test last year due to pandemic precautions. However, she rescheduled her appointment to almost a year later and was seen in March 2021.

Little by little, Westcott said, she is seeing more patients returning to healthcare. At the end of October, UCFS had seen 15,654 individual patients in the past 12 months.

“We’re making progress,” she said, “but it’s only going slowly.”

This story was shared through a partnership with Connecticut Health I-Team (c-hit.org), a nonprofit news organization dedicated to health reporting.


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