International Women’s Day celebrates and reflects on the progress made in promoting and protecting women’s equality and rights in various walks of life. Along with gender pay gap, progress in women’s health and wellness is one of the biggest hurdles facing women around the world. In light of the #PressforProgress theme this Women’s Day, promoted by the United Nations, let’s get a better perspective of the progress to be made globally when it comes to health issues affecting women:
Breast and cervical cancer are the leading forms of cancer in women. Early diagnosis can help save lives, however, statistics indicate that even educated women are reluctant in addressing their health issues and often depend on their family members for their healthcare needs, causing a delay in diagnosis. It is therefore important to educate men as much as women about the significance of early diagnosis for breast and cervical cancer. Read more about the common types of cancer prevalent in India.
Cardiovascular disease is often associated more closely with men as opposed to women. Heart disease is, however, one of the leading causes for death in women as well. In fact, research indicates that women are three times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than breast cancer.
The lifestyle factors that lead to heart disease in women are the usual suspects: diet, obesity, cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Ensuring women’s health initiatives in various settings can play a vital role in creating awareness as well as in pushing for better self-care.
Sexual, Reproductive and Maternal Health
Sexual, reproductive and maternal health are part of an essential lifecycle in women. The challenges that many face during each of these phases include lack of adequate sex education for the young; lack of information on the choices pertaining to family planning during adulthood; lack of access to safe antenatal, delivery and post-natal care, particularly in the hinterlands; lack of initiatives on awareness and preventive education on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as HIV; and lack of awareness on early diagnosis and treatment of reproductive health illnesses such as cervical and breast cancer in later years. Awareness, choice and accessibility of healthcare services are the necessities to overcome this health challenge for women.
Women are more prone to experiencing anxiety and depression, owing to biological differences but more predominantly owing to the pressure that stems from gender roles and responsibilities. Mental health is often a neglected health concern, with depression and suicide put down to being a weak choice. However, given that it is among the leading cause of death in women between ages 20 to 59 years across the world, it is time to take stock of its lethal strength, and progress towards making it a health priority.