Published in The Lancet, a major new commission on women and health has found that women are contributing nearly five per cent (around $3 trillion) to global health care, but nearly half of this is unpaid and unrecognised.
The Commission, which brought together leading thinkers, heads of programmes, and activists from around the world – including Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, a commissioner and co-author of the report, and Founding Director of the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University – examines the complex links between biological, economic and social factors in improving women’s health throughout their lives.
“In Pakistan, the Lady Health Workers programme has long been the backbone of the primary health care programme in rural impoverished settings, and has led to both empowerment and enabling of rural girls and women. Much more needs to be done, however, in ensuring that such task shifting is also accompanied by long-term measures to engage women across all strata of health services and management,” says Professor Bhutta.
According to Professor Ana Langer, head of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, who co-led the Commission, “Too often, women’s health is essentially equated to maternal and reproductive health. However, the evidence outlined by this commission overturns this conventional interpretation, and we urge the global health community and policymakers worldwide to embrace a more holistic – and realistic – understanding of women and health.”
According to Professor Afaf Meleis from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia, USA, who co-led the Commission with Langer, “Often urban areas are developed without any input from women, and without addressing their needs for adequate lighting, safe transportation, access to healthy food, to infrastructures that promote community connectivity, and to integrated health care, child and elderly care. This puts women at increased risk of violence, non-communicable diseases and stressful life overload, which may in turn have adverse consequences for their families.”
The Commission analysed data from 32 countries, accounting for 52 per cent of the world’s population, to estimate that the financial value of women’s paid contribution to the health system in 2010 was 2.47 per cent of the GDP and 2.35 per cent of GDP for unpaid work–largely domestic care for family members – which is only officially acknowledged and compensated in a small number of countries, such as Costa Rica, Turkey, and the UK. Women’s contributions to health care amount to a total of US$3 trillion, more than the US and UK government’s combined total annual expenditure.
The Commission concludes with a series of recommendations, including a call to recognise the importance of timely and appropriate investments in girls and women to enhance their status, strengthen health systems, and improve health outcomes, and to ensure that development planning and financing for health is responsive to the concerns and needs of women.
Among other recommendations, the authors urge women to participate at all levels of decision making in society, fostering leadership in health care nationally and internationally.
Source: AKU edu