Women’s International Day is a great opportunity to explore common women’s health issues and how they reflect social and cultural processes or in other words: what is gender related health ?

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) determined that disease is affected by sex and gender. The NCBI differentiates between biologically related disease such as in gynecological conditions and gender related disease in which case disease prevalence is effected by social and cultural models and conflicts.

Following is a summary of some of the key findings of The World Health Organization report (WHO) from 2009, data all women should be aware of.

Women generally live longer than men because of both biological and behavioral advantages. With that, women’s longer lives are not necessarily healthy lives. There are conditions that only women experience and whose potentially negative impact only they suffer. Some of these – such as pregnancy and childbirth – are not diseases, but biological and social processes that carry health risks and require health care.

Some health challenges affect both women and men, but have a greater or different impact on women and so require responses that are tailored specifically to women’s needs. Other conditions affect women and men more or less equally, but women face greater difficulties in getting the health care they need. Furthermore, gender based inequalities – for example in education, income and employment – limit the ability of girls and women to protect their health.

Sexuality and Reproduction
Complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading cause of death in young women aged between 15 and 19 years old in developing countries.
Globally, the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age is HIV/AIDS.
Girls and women are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection due to a combination of
biological factors and gender-based inequalities, particularly in cultures that limit women’s
knowledge about HIV and their ability to protect themselves and negotiate safer sex.

Gender Inequality
Behavioral and other social norms, codes of conduct and laws perpetuate the subjugation of
females and condone violence against them. Unequal power relations and gendered norms
and values translate into differential access to and control over health resources, both within
families and beyond. Gender inequalities in the allocation of resources, such as income, education, health care, nutrition and political voice, are strongly associated with poor health and reduced well-being. Thus, across a range of health problems, girls and women face differential
exposures and vulnerabilities that are often poorly recognized.

Although women’s political participation is growing, men still wield political control in most societies and, by extension, they wield social and economic control as well.

Violence against women is a widespread experience worldwide with serious public health
implications. Violence against women can lead directly to serious injury, disability or death.
It can also lead indirectly to a variety of health problems such as stress-induced physiological changes, substance use, or lack of fertility control and personal autonomy as often seen in abusive relationships. Abused women have higher rates of unintended pregnancies, abortions, adverse pregnancies and neonatal and infant outcomes, sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), and mental disorders (such as depression, anxiety disorders, sleep disorders and eating disorders)10–17 compared to their non-abused peers.
Use of health care services

The poorest women in lower income countries have health care utilization rates that are 50% lower than the wealthiest women in higher income countries.

Summary of findings and implications
■ There have been major improvements in life expectancy among women over the past half-century. in high-income countries women can expect to live for more than 80 years; by contrast, a woman born in East or Southern Africa can expect to live only for 50 years.

■ A health transition is sweeping around the world, leading to a shift in the patterns of death and disease – away from infectious diseases and maternal conditions to noncommunicable and chronic diseases. Women are confronted by a dual burden of traditional health threats related to infectious diseases and maternal conditions alongside emerging challenges associated with noncommunicable chronic diseases.

■ Both sex and gender have a significant impact on the health of women and must be considered when developing appropriate strategies for health promotion and for the prevention and treatment of ill-health.

■ Societies and their health systems need to be better geared to meet women’s health needs in terms of access, comprehensiveness and responsiveness. Policies and programs must ensure that gender norms and socioeconomic inequalities do not limit women’s ability to access health information and health-care services.

For the complete report click here http://www.who.int/gender/women_health_report/en/

Author's Bio: 

Joan Jacobs, holistic healer, has 25 years experience as clinical healer, educator and speaker. Her clinical expertise is emotional, spiritual and personality –related healing. Joan teaches at the Faculty of Health Sciences and at the School of Continuing Education for The Medical Profession at The Ben Gurion University, Israel, and has held senior teaching and directing positions at leading schools of complementary medicine. Joan instructs cancer and substance abuse recovery programs as well as women’s empowerment and health programs.
In the corporate world Joan addresses interpersonal relationships in the work place and has worked with some of Israel's leading companies. In 2010 she created The Light Within International Healing and Personal Transformation Workshop Program) and published her first book titled Messages from the Soul-A Holistic Approach to Healing. She is former host of The Light Within Weekly Radio Talk Show on VoiceAmerica and is manager of The Light Within Online Community at: www.jjacobshealth.com