A healthcare worker checks the temperature of a woman during a coronavirus disease vaccination drive for workers on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, India in April, 2021. Women's health and wellbeing was set back globally during the pandemic. Image: REUTERS/Amit Dave
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- The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted the health and wellbeing of billions of women worldwide.
- Women's health cannot be ignored in the pursuit of gender equality, but reliable data is necessary to direct advances in healthcare and health policy.
- To this end, Hologic releases the Global Women’s Health Index annually, providing critical data on women's health globally.
Women’s health is the cornerstone of economies and societies worldwide — but leaders continually fail to prioritize it. This lack of action on women’s health enables social and economic backslides and widens the gender gap across the board, everywhere.
Now, more than ever, we need global leadership to find a way out of this ongoing crisis and put women at the forefront of policy decisions.
The critical need to prioritize women’s health
Throughout history, women have disproportionately suffered from health crises. This trend continued in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Oxfam International reported that women globally lost more than 64 million jobs in 2020 and at least $800 billion in earnings — and these gaps have widened as the pandemic dragged on longer.
According to the Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report, economic participation and opportunity remained the second largest of the four critical gaps tracked in 2022 and will take another 151 years to close. While some regions perform better than others, no region has yet managed to close even 80% of its gender gap across the board.
As women held families and communities together during this time, their own essential health care, such as screenings for deadly diseases, was put on hold. The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, an annual study that measures women’s experiences worldwide, found that only 12% of women globally responded that they had been tested for cancer in the previous 12 months in 2021, despite this disease killing 10 million people worldwide. In addition, the data shows that only one in 10 women reported that they had been tested for sexually transmitted diseases or infections.
Women’s emotional health has also been put at stake. The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index found that emotional health is at an all-time low, with worry, stress, sadness and anger continuing to increase around the globe: around 4 in 10 women said they experienced worry and stress during “a lot of” the previous day.
Mapping women’s health around the world
Collaboration is at the core of the annual Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, conducted in partnership with Gallup. The Hologic Global Women’s Heath Index is one of the world’s most comprehensive, globally comparative studies on women’s health, measuring the experiences of more than 2.7 billion women and girls aged 15 and older across 122 countries and territories. This is the first single measure — directly from women’s voices — to capture and compare the overall state of women’s health by country and region, representing 94% of the global female population.
The research does not only identify areas where women are falling behind. It also uncovers valuable data on the metrics most critical for improving the status and health of women globally.
Preventive care and emotional health are two of the five dimensions in the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, accounting for more than 80% of the variance in female life expectancy. The Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report also underscored a healthy life expectancy as a priority to address in regions across the world. Study after study shows a positive correlation between life expectancy and economic growth and development.
Undoubtedly, collaboration is key to uncovering solutions to improve women’s health. This is the crux of a new partnership between Hologic and the World Economic Forum. This high-profile convening platform facilitates global efforts to inform critical decision-makers about the alarming gaps in women’s health that Hologic has been working to highlight and, most importantly, reduce.
Overall, the results of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index 2021 Report reveal a consistently growing divide across nearly all indicators of women’s health, including wealthy and poorer nations, urban and rural areas and across education levels. The World Economic Forum’s newly released Global Gender Gap Report 2022 also explores these worrisome trends and further underscores the need for collaborative change.
The preliminary results of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index 2021 Report reveal a consistently growing divide across nearly all indicators of women’s health, including women in high-income and low-income economies, urban and rural areas, and across education levels. The World Economic Forum’s newly-released Global Gender Gap Report 2022 also explores these worrisome trends and further underscores the need for collaborative change.
Acting on the data
Hologic’s 2021 Global Women’s Health Index has now launched, uncovering fresh data and actionable insights that policymakers and leaders worldwide can and must use to improve women’s health.
Data uncovered through the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index and studies like the Global Gender Gap Report are troubling but actionable.
These landmark studies provide a blueprint for policymakers worldwide to help women live healthier lives, participate fully in the economy and civic life and secure the rights they deserve. Leaders around the world can go far in achieving these goals simply by listening to women and actively prioritizing women’s health.
Both steps will help to make strides towards closing the gender gap and improving women’s lives.
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.