Advocates tackle disparities in Missouri women’s healthcare

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(Missouri News Service – Farah Siddiqi) – Women, particularly Black women, are disproportionately affected by strokes and other health conditions in Missouri.

Keetra Thompson, a stroke survivor, highlighted the disproportionate impact of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes on Black women in the state, attributing it to factors such as poverty, access to healthy food options, and lack of resources in certain neighborhoods.

“We have a Walmart and maybe a Schnucks, but then everything else is all fast food,” Thompson explained. “If I wanted to go to Whole Foods, I’d have to drive 40 minutes. If you don’t have access to a car and can’t pay for transportation, you can’t even get healthy food. The local grocery stores are so expensive, it’s just unattainable.”

Keetra expressed the need to advocate for better food choices and resources in underserved communities and reminded Missourians to stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association emphasized that calling 911 for stroke symptoms is crucial, since the closest hospital may not be the most suitable for stroke treatment, and paramedics are trained to take appropriate action.

Peter Panagos, a professor of emergency medicine and neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, emphasized that the Time Critical Diagnosis system ensures—regardless of where you seek treatment, even at a small community hospital—that it is connected to larger hospitals. If a stroke is suspected and local care is inadequate, the smaller hospitals can recognize the symptoms, conduct early diagnostic testing, and, through prearranged agreements and communication pathways with other hospitals, arrange timely transport. The system ensures everyone in Missouri receives equally outstanding care statewide.

“We’ve done a lot of work in the state of Missouri through the Department of Health and other constituent organizations to help improve the level of stroke care no matter where you live,” Panagos pointed out.

Panagos stressed that about 55,000 women, more than men, will have a stroke each year based on the numbers, and stroke is the third leading cause of death in women in the United States. He added that among women, Black women have the highest prevalence of stroke, but being armed with knowledge about prevention can help achieve healthier outcomes.

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