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Until women are healthy, societies will suffer

November 9, 2009 |  5:54 pm

Somali Accidental injuries take a toll on girls and younger women. Chronic diseases account for almost half of the deaths among older women. And HIV / AIDS claims the most lives among women of reproductive age worldwide. In short, although women generally have longer lives than men, these lives are often not healthy ones.

A new report from the World Health Organization, "Women and Health: Today's Evidence / Tomorrow's Agenda," lays out the hurdles women face in getting the healthcare they need at various stages of life. It also explains the impact on women -- and on society as a whole. As it points out, women are also the caregivers.

Here's the full report. And a fact sheet about women's health.

The power in the report comes from the context. As Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, says in her overview statement:

"The obstacles that stand in the way of better health for women are not primarily technical or medical in nature. They are social and political, and the two go together.

"We will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as second-class citizens in so many parts of the world. We will not see significant progress as long as women are excluded from educational and employment opportunities, are paid less or not paid at all, are denied the right to own property, are victims of violence, have no control over household income, and have no freedom to spend money on health care, even if it means saving their own lives."

If you read just one thing, read the statement.

Meanwhile, the report itself concludes:

"Improving women’s health matters to women, to their families, and to communities and societies at large. Improve women’s health – improve the world."

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: A woman washes clothes at a refugee camp in Somalia. Credit: Mohamed Dahir / AFP / Getty Images