Good health, access to health services, and the ability to live in a safe environment are critical to the economic security and overall well-being of North Carolina women. While poor health can negatively affect employment opportunities, educational attainment, and financial security, good health allows women to meet their economic and educational goals and flourish in the other areas of their lives. Multiple factors, including genetics, behavior, access to health care—including reproductive health care—access to healthy food, and quality and safe housing contribute to the health and wellness of women. This report provides information on the health, well-being, and reproductive rights of women in North Carolina, including differences by race and ethnicity and by county where data are available.

The Status of Women in North Carolina: Health & Wellness analyzes data on women’s health, including chronic disease, physical health, sexual health, access to reproductive health services, and experiences of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. The report identifies changes in women’s health since the publication of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s (IWPR) 2013 Status of Women in North Carolina report and concludes with recommendations for policymakers, public health officials, advocates, and philanthropists.

Key Findings

  • Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, North Carolina ranks in the middle or bottom on indicators of health and wellness. North Carolina’s best ranking is for heart disease mortality (27th out of 51) and its worst is for AIDS diagnoses (44th).
  • Since the 2013 publication of the Status of Women in North Carolina report, health and wellness for women in North Carolina has improved in many areas. The mortality rate for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, breast cancer, uterine cancer, cervical cancer, and ovarian cancer all decreased among women in North Carolina. HIV/AIDS diagnoses and reported gonorrhea cases also decreased, but chlamydia rates increased.
  • Among women in the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of mortality, at a rate of 131.9 per 100,000 women of all ages. The heart disease mortality rate for women in North Carolina is slightly lower than the national average at 124.9 per 100,000. Put another way, this means that approximately 6,658 women in North Carolina died of heart disease in 2018. Across North Carolina, heart disease mortality ranges from a low of 76.6 per 100,000 women in Chatham County to a high of 263.3 per 100,000 women in Columbus County.

This Health & Wellness report is the second installment in a four-part series of publications on women’s status in North Carolina commissioned by the North Carolina Council for Women and Youth Involvement. These reports describe trends over time and, whenever possible, variations among women by race and ethnicity. The first report in the series, Employment & Earnings, was released in 2018. The third report focuses on factors related to women’s political participation, and the fourth on women’s poverty and opportunity. The series is part of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research’s Status of Women in the States initiative, which has sought to measure women’s economic, social, and political progress at the state and federal levels since 1996.