Empowering Women in Taking Control of Their Health
Women make up half of every nation’s population, yet are often overlooked in terms of health care and services. This imbalance translates into poorer health outcomes.
It’s time to address this inequality by focusing on women’s health. To do so, we need to tackle neglected diseases and build robust health systems.
Women’s health concerns are complex and diverse. They are affected by a variety of factors, including their biology, environment and lifestyle choices. Women can take control of their health by making healthy choices, seeking support, and prioritising their unique needs.
The right to health includes access to contraception, and for women to choose a method that suits them. This is especially important for disadvantaged women who are less likely to be reached proactively by services.
Women should also be able to access breast and cervical cancer screening. Detecting these diseases at an early stage can help save lives. Additionally, women should have access to vaccines like the human papilloma virus (HPV) and other preventative healthcare like regular STI testing.
Menstrual health is about more than just sanitary products. It encompasses the entire experience of menstruation for 1.9 billion girls, women, transgender and nonbinary people each month – including access to information, supplies, water, sanitation and hygienic disposal facilities; a supportive environment; and competent healthcare workers. It is also about tackling the stigma and taboos associated with menstruation, which can prevent people from achieving good menstrual hygiene, living in dignity and participating fully in their lives.
Gender inequality, discriminatory social norms, poverty and lack of basic services like toilets and sanitary products can all cause women’s menstrual needs to go unmet. This has far-reaching consequences, affecting their ability to participate in school, work and community life. Our Côte d’Ivoire partners, Soutien Aux Meres et aux Enfants en Détresse de Cote d’Ivoire and Actuelles, are working to change this.
A woman’s mental health is just as important as her physical health. Throughout their lives, women encounter distinctive challenges and stress factors that can impact mental well-being.
Among these are: Life Transitions, including puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, which can trigger mood swings. Social pressures and expectations, such as those related to body image and gender roles, can also influence mental health.
In addition, the occurrence of trauma and violence against women can lead to a host of psychological issues like depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder. And finally, a lack of access to quality health care and education can cause emotional problems such as low self-esteem or poor decision making.
Having sexual health means having the ability to integrate and enjoy sexuality into your life, derive pleasure from it and have satisfying relationships, while avoiding unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. This is inextricably bound to your physical and mental well-being.
A major obstacle to sexual health is violence against women – physical and emotional abuse, coercion and discrimination – which adversely affects their long-term wellbeing. In addition, many forms of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and genital cancers such as HPV and chlamydia are particularly devastating for women’s health.
Physicians can empower their patients by taking a proactive approach to sexual health. This includes using a patient-centered history taking model, such as CDC’s Five Ps (partners, practices, past history of sexually transmitted diseases and protection and pregnancy prevention), and by training providers and staff to recognize individual implicit biases and provide trauma-informed care. Bayer is also committed to supporting innovation to promote sex- and gender-informed healthcare by enabling better data collection, research design and sex-intentional regulatory and science policy.