The rankings What's the healthiest place for women in our region? Check the Women's Health and Mortality Chartbook (www.cdc.gov/NCHS/datawh/statab/chartbook.htm) from the National Center for Health Statistics. The report lists state (and D.C.) rankings on health factors including routine checkups, prenatal care, cholesterol and colorectal screening, pap smears, mammograms, and eating fruits and veggies.

Here's a snapshot of how area jurisdictions fared on women's preventive health measures:

District of Columbia The District ranks first in the country on recent checkups (more than 90 percent of black, white and Hispanic women had them) and cholesterol screenings (more than 80 percent), but dead last on prenatal care. Why the gap? Chartbook co-author Suzanne Haynes speculates two factors could be decreased availability of obstetric care and limited awareness that Medicaid covers prenatal screening. The District also earned high marks for recent mammograms (5th), pap smears (3rd), colorectal checks (9th) and eating five daily fruits and vegetables (1st).

Maryland The Free State ranks in the top five on cholesterol screening, pap smears, colorectal tests and routine checkups. It ranks No. 6 on recent mammograms. With preventive health so good, why is the death rate from breast cancer so high (43rd place out of 52)? Analysts don't know. National Cancer Institute studies ruled out environmental factors but Haynes said she hopes researchers will look again.

Virginia The Old Dominion is almost squarely in the middle for most preventive measures including mammograms (32), checkups (22), colorectal (22), and cholesterol (16) screening, pap smears (16) and eating produce (14). Low insurance coverage rates may explain the middling marks, said Haynes.

-- Francesca Lunzer Kritz