This is the first piece in the’ Healthcare for Women’ series. Through this, we aim to focus greater attention on health problems afflicting women and highlight aspects of women’s health going beyond their sexual and reproductive ones. The goal is to create a health-care system catering specifically to women’s unique needs.
Health Issues Specific to Women
While talking of women’s health, it is important to consider it beyond the sexual and reproductive aspects of it. While men and women may have overlapping health challenges and needs, women face greater difficulties in obtaining health care due to gender-based inequalities. Women on an average live longer than men because of various biological and behavioral advantages, but higher lifespans do not necessarily translate into healthy and happy lives. Certain conditions like menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth are not diseases, rather biological and social processes that carry inherent health risks, requiring attention.
Women’s health has historically been neglected. Various cultural and socio-economic factors as well as societal norms have traditionally prevented women from putting their health first, with the focus chiefly being on their reproductive roles. It is now imperative for policy makers to provide coherent political and institutional leadership and increase the visibility and resources for women’s health. Primary and continuous care is needed starting childhood, lasting through adolescence, the reproductive years and beyond to provide women a good quality of life.
To allow for some perspective on the magnitude of the problem, we have rounded up some statistics. Every four minutes a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, while every 6 minutes a woman dies of it. 56% of adolescent girls suffer from anemia, while 1 in every 5 women suffers from PCOS. It is amply clear that emphasis on women’s healths will significantly decrease the healthcare burden.
Affecting more than half of adolescent girls, Anemia needs to be tackled head on. Apart from being a cause of delayed growth etc, anemia is the leading cause of maternal mortality. Various government schemes like Anemia Mukt Bharat are at the helm, fighting the battle. Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) afflicts 1 in every 5 women. With a range of symptoms – irregular menstruation, hirsutism, acne and mental health issues, it is truly the bane of the Indian woman.
25% of women face mental health issues during their lifetime. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)- a plethora of distressing emotional and behavioral symptoms was reported by over 90% of women. Women contend with unique mental challenges during and after childbirth. Postpartum blues affects a staggering 50%- 80% of new mothers, with postpartum depression manifesting in almost 22% of them.
Breast and cervical cancer are the most prevalent among Indian women. What makes the statistics even more damning is the fact that early diagnosis means that the cancers are caught at an early stage, where they are more amenable to treatment.
The World is Getting There
Slow yet steady, our world seems to be headed in the right direction. Corporates, startups, non-profit organisations and policy makers are coming up with novel solutions and policy reforms to solve these health issues. Here are some of them:
- Niramai Health Analytix with its novel solution, Thermalytix, aids in diagnosing breast cancer at a very early stage.
- EzeRx, a med-tech startup, uses spectroscopic conjunctival emission to detect anemia.
- Veera Health offers online consultation with gynecologists, nutritionists, therapists and dermatologists in its quest against PCOS.
- A gamut of mental health apps in the market today cater to the mental health needs, where consultation with certified psychiatrists and therapists can be sought.
- Sascan, a Kerala-based startup, uses multi-spectral imaging cameras to detect oral and cervical cancers, without a need for biopsy.
In the coming series, we will dive into these issues in greater detail. As we saw with the pandemic healthcare today is more important than before. Let’s make ourselves and the world ready. Healthy women create better worlds!
Shreya is an MBBS graduate, with a keen interest in psychiatry and Public health. Outside of work, she likes reading, playing with dogs, and hiking.