Women's Health Needs Study of U.S. Residents from Countries with Common Practice of Female Genital Mutilation and Cutting

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) is a significant health and human rights concern, with women and girls suffering deleterious and often severe short- and long-term health consequences as a result of this practice. In the past several decades, the number of immigrants and refugees to the United States (U.S.) from high prevalence countries has grown markedly, increasing the number of women and girls in the U.S. who have experienced FGM/C or who are at risk of experiencing it. In the United States, a 2016 publication by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated indirectly that approximately 513,000 women and girls have either undergone or could be at risk of FGM/C.

Currently, directly collected, multi-site data from U.S.-resident women from countries where FGM/C is practiced or whose mother is from such a country is not available in the U.S. Moreover, apart from a small number of qualitative studies, no standardized data documents the experiences, attitudes, and health care needs of women living in the U.S. who have experienced FGM/C or are at risk for FGM/C. 

CDC has engaged NORC to design, pilot, and carry out the Women's Health Needs Study (WHNS). WHNS will be the first multi-site study in the U.S. to collect information on FGM/C and related health characteristics, behaviors, and attitudes from U.S.-resident women aged 18 to 49 who were born, or whose mothers were born, in a country where FGM/C is a prevalent practice.

WHNS will collect scientifically valid, current information on women’s health experiences and needs in selected communities in the United States with high concentrations of residents from countries where FGM/C is prevalent. WHNS will assess the extent to which FGM/C affects women in these communities, women’s attitudes about continuance of the practice, and their health experiences. Findings on women's health needs, experiences, and attitudes related to FGM/C can be used to inform and plan programs, services, and prevention efforts.

The WHNS pilot study was completed in 2019. The multi-site study is planned to be implemented in 2020-21 in up to six U.S. communities with high concentrations of populations from high FGM/C-prevalence countries. 


  1. (2008). Eliminating Female Genital Mutilation, An Interagency Statement.
  2. (2016). Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A Global Concern.
  3. Goldberg, H., Stupp, P., Okoroh, E., Besera, G., Goodman, D. and Danel, I. (2016). Female genital mutilation/cutting in the United States: Updated estimates of women and girls at risk, 2012.Public Health Reports, 131, 1–8.
  4. Wanda K. Jones, Smith, J., Burney Kieke, Jr., & Lynne Wilcox. (1997). Who Is at Risk in the U.S.? Public Health Reports(1974-),112(5), 368-377. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/4598166

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