Women's health ... Despite significant progress, there is still a gender gap when it comes to healthcare diagnosis. Image: Unsplash/Towfiqu Barbhuiya
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- Women around the world have been asked a simple question: “What do you want most for your health and well-being?”
- The results are summarized in a new report from the White Ribbon Alliance, which concludes that to effectively meet women’s needs, systems will need to adopt a more holistic approach.
- Despite significant progress in women's health and survival, there is still a gender gap when it comes to healthcare diagnosis, according to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Report 2023.
How can society improve its approach to women’s health and well-being?
The answer, according to an organization that advocates for women’s and girls’ health, is simple: ask them what they want, listen to their concerns and ideas, and act on what they say.
Women are not consulted enough by their healthcare providers – over four out of every five women feel like healthcare professionals are not listening, which could be contributing to serious issues such as delayed diagnosis.
What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve healthcare systems?
But the White Ribbon Alliance has found a way to reach more than 1.2 million women and girls around the world to find out what they really need.
Here’s how their anonymous survey was made possible, and what the women they reached said they wanted most for their health and well-being.
Better health coverage and more investment in women
Women from 14 countries - eight in Africa, four in Asia, and one each in Europe and the Americas – were each asked what they wanted for their health and well-being by a worldwide team of trained locals, or “mobilizers”, who gathered their responses.
The anonymous results were then posted publicly through a digital dashboard, “enabling women’s and girls’ own words to directly inform and influence advocates, politicians and other decision-makers to act, while enabling them to remain free from vitriol or exploitation common in digital spaces”.
These are their top demands:
Next steps for action
“Every day, countless women and girls move through a world that undermines their capabilities, challenges their knowledge, and discourages them from articulating and pursuing their desires,” the report says.
But the messaging from over a million women and girls who have been given a voice is clear, Beyond the Sum of our (Body) Parts: A Call to Action from Women and Girls concludes: “Women’s health and well-being requires systematic transformations to health, food, social, political, and economic systems.”
The report also groups a series of action points that can help drive holistic change.
Delivering universal health coverage was the leading call to action, followed by more investment in women and ensuring that they can feed themselves and their families.
Top demands by age and country
A particular focus of the report was capturing diverse voices that often go unheard, including adolescent girls, older women, displaced women and women with disabilities.
Grouping the results by age shows that younger women tend to be focused on attaining education and vocational skills, while older women want better healthcare.
Splitting the data by country, survey respondents from Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Mexico, Nigeria and South Africa all put education and economic opportunity at the top of the demands. One anonymous 39-year-old respondent from Mexico said she wants the opportunity for single mothers to be able to continue studying, and for “support from universities to fulfil our dreams”.
In Burkina Faso, Egypt, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal and Serbia, the primary focus for women and girls is health, specifically the need for better access to free, affordable or insured healthcare, as well as functioning, well-staffed health facilities.
Solutions to reduce the gender gap
Beyond the Sum of our (Body) Parts concludes that a lack of diverse opinion is contributing to the failure of policies, programmes and the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In its latest Global Gender Gap report, the World Economic Forum reveals the women’s health and survival gender gap is almost completely closed.
But despite this progress, women are still being underdiagnosed for certain health conditions compared to men, including heart attack, endometriosis and autism, which is linked to lingering bias.
Amira Ghouaibi, Project Lead of the Women’s Health Initiative at the World Economic Forum, says investment in women’s health lies at the heart of many of today’s challenges.
“It is undeniable that women contribute to the development of society. If we don’t listen to their needs and priorities, we will fail to build a healthy, equitable and successful future for all.”
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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.
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