Image credits: National Cancer Institute on Unplash
News Article

Women’s Health Fight

By Miriam Bello | Mon, 03/08/2021 - 13:56

Women have unique health rights, many of which have been and continue to be systematically denied. Some of the main obstacles for women’s health were exposed during a TEDtalk hosted by Pat Mitchell and Deborah Rhodes of the Mayo Clinic, Paula Johnson, Chief of Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard University and science journalist Linda Villarosa.

The panelists highlighted disparity in the research field, which mainly reflects in late female participation in clinical trials and disparity in research resources access. According to Johnson, biologically, it is important to study both women and men cells, as they both respond differently. Nevertheless, and despite a predominantly female population, clinical trials largely focus on men during initial clinical trials phases.

Paradigms can largely affect health practices, too. During their conversation, Rhodes exposed that traditional or common mammograms often leave out women with dense breasts. During her practice, she has noticed that this has derived in a 50 percent rate of breast cancer misdiagnoses.

The intersection of gender, race and ethnicity is also one of the largest subjects of inequality globally and in all sectors. In Mexico, according to World Bank, health inequality in Mexico remains significantly present in rural communities among indigenous women and adolescents.

NCBI reports that the main barriers for women in Mexico are accessing social security services due to the low levels of education, subordination within families and communities, lack of transportation options, violence, as well as stigma and discrimination based on ethnicity, sexuality, race and age. All of this demands stronger multi-sector policies and programs.

Reproductive health has been the main target for the majority of health policies for women. These have actually reduced maternal mortality in Mexico. However, according to NCBI, the unmet need for contraception is nearly 27 percent among adolescents and over 21 percent among indigenous women, which means adolescent pregnancy rates remain high: adolescents account for six out of every 10 births. Current social efforts surrounding this subject reflect in Mexico’s protests for legal, free abortion rights. The latter has been recognized by PAHO as a matter of public health and in Mexico, only in Oaxaca and Mexico City women have the right of safe abortion.

An ANMM report reflects that Mexico has to urgently solve social inequality to grant equal access to health regardless of gender. The report states gender inequality has translated into five diseases: Tacoma, soil-transmitted helminths, Stenosis-cysticercosis, chagas disease and leishmaniosis. Moreover, the report stressed the need for strengthening reproductive health programs, mental health attention for women recognizing their social role as caregivers, developing a specific homicide way to address female homicide and encouraging medicine feminization.

By having more female leaders in health, UN Women believes the creation of policies to transform health realities will be easier, especially after COVID-19, which has only increased social, gender and economic inequalities. UN Women stresses the importance of female inclusion in decision-making processes to eradicate gender violence and empower girls and women to ensure access to health services.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst