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Communities and organizations around the world recently celebrated International Women’s Day, a “global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women [and a day that] also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.” Yet gender equality in the world of health and medicine continues to be a problem. As we reflect on the achievements and advances made over the years, it’s an important time to highlight why women’s health deserves a bigger spotlight — and how you, or the women in your life, can feel empowered to prioritize women’s health issues and concerns.

Women’s Health Concerns Need More Emphasis Today

Prioritizing women’s health is essential for several reasons, as it contributes to overall societal well-being and progress. For example, women play a crucial role in communities as caregivers, mothers, and active contributors to society. Improving women’s health directly benefits the health of families and communities.

Women’s health is even linked to economic productivity. Healthy women are more likely to participate in the workforce, contribute to economic development, and break the cycle of poverty in families and communities.

Prioritizing women’s health is a crucial step toward achieving gender equality. It involves addressing disparities in healthcare access, treatment, and research, as well as challenging societal norms that may contribute to gender-based health inequalities. And our modern medical system really struggles in this specific area.

“Despite healthcare advances in the past few decades, we still face wide gaps in research and treatment ability for areas that are unique to women, such as maternal and menstrual health, as well as for conditions that present differently in women than men,” warns the World Economic Forum.

The forum points to “wide gaps in research and treatment ability for areas that are unique to women” and a lack of focus on unique women’s health issues. But prioritizing women’s health is not only a matter of social justice and human rights but also a strategic investment in the overall health and prosperity of communities and societies. The result, if we can all work together to achieve equality? A more equitable, just, and healthier world for everyone.

“By elevating the importance of women’s health, we can deliver better, more inclusive data and insights; more targeted, accessible solutions; and, enable better care for women worldwide,” concludes the forum.

You don’t need to wait for a utopian future. There are many things you can do for yourself and the women in your life to advocate for women’s health and be a bigger voice for your own well-being and wellness.

4 Critical Women’s Health Issues That Are Often Overlooked and Ignored

While progress has been made in addressing women’s health issues, some conditions are still overlooked or not given adequate attention. If you want to advocate for your own health, doing your own research, asking medical professionals, and speaking up during appointments with your doctor, naturopath or caregiver can help you determine if these issues affect you.

Common areas of concern that the traditional medical system often ignores include:

  • Your menstrual health: There is still a lot of social stigma surrounding issues such as menstrual pain, irregular periods, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). This means these health concerns may not receive the proactive attention and preventative education that they deserve. Access to affordable menstrual hygiene products can also be a challenge for some women.
  • Mental health: Postpartum depression affects some women after childbirth, but it is often trivialized or dismissed. The same goes for general mental health concerns like anxiety or depression. Hormonal changes, societal pressures, and life events contribute to mental health challenges unique to women. Adequate support and mental health resources are crucial for addressing this common and serious condition.
  • Your pelvic health: Concerns like pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence are common, particularly after childbirth and as you age. These conditions can significantly impact quality of life but may not be openly discussed or addressed.
  • Heart disease: Heart disease is often thought of as a male-centric health issue, but it is a leading cause of death for women globally. Symptoms may differ from those in men, leading to misdiagnosis or delayed treatment.

Be Your Own Voice: Advocate For Your Health Concerns

Start with yourself. Gain a deep understanding of the specific women’s health issues you want to advocate for or that you feel aren’t being properly addressed by the medical professionals in your community. This includes staying informed about the latest research, statistics, and available resources.

With education under your belt, use your voice (literally). Share information through social media, blogs, or other platforms. Organize events, webinars, or workshops to educate your community about these issues. And don’t be afraid to be authentic and transparent about why these issues matter to you.  Personal stories have a powerful impact in changing the narrative. Share your own experiences or those of others affected by the health issues you’re advocating for — this humanizes the issues you care about and makes them more relatable to others.

Finally, remember that you aren’t alone. Join or collaborate with existing advocacy groups and organizations that focus on women’s health. Working together with like-minded individuals and organizations amplifies your advocacy efforts and provides valuable support and resources. And while traditional health systems struggle with gender inequality, that doesn’t necessarily mean your doctor doesn’t care. Foster relationships with healthcare professionals, researchers, and practitioners who work in the field of women’s health. Seek their input, share information, and collaborate to promote evidence-based practices and policies.

The world has made a lot of progress over the recent decades, but more needs to be done to focus on women and create a more informed, supportive, and equitable environment for all of us.

References:

  • https://www.internationalwomensday.com/
  • https://www.paho.org/en/topics/gender-equality-health
  • https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2023/01/women-health-gap-davos-2023/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10021325
  • https://www.mcleanhospital.org/essential/why-we-need-pay-attention-womens-mental-health
  • https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm