Article: International Women's Day - Addressing women's health in emerging markets

Pei Li Teh, February 2019

International Women’s Day is a commemoration of the social, economic, and cultural achievements of women around the world. Furthermore, the day marks a global call to action for accelerating gender parity by improving women’s access to education and quality, affordable healthcare. Since its inception in 1909, International Women’s Day has made tremendous progress to advance gender equality.

Elderly asian woman with female physician
Elderly asian woman with female physician

International Women’s Day is a commemoration of the social, economic, and cultural achievements of women around the world. Furthermore, the day marks a global call to action for accelerating gender parity by improving women’s access to education and quality, affordable healthcare. Since its inception in 1909, International Women’s Day has made tremendous progress to advance gender equality.

Nevertheless, figures show that globally, women’s health indicators still lag behind those of men in many aspects. Focusing on healthcare, women are expected to live longer than men in most countries, but a number of health and social factors combine to create a wide-range of healthcare disparities among men and women. For example, women are twice as likely as men to suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Migraines and Stroke. Furthermore, some health issues that are common to both men and women affect women differently. For example women are more prone to swelling from Osteoporosis than men, and heart attack symptoms are often less specific in women, including shortness of breath, nausea, jaw, neck or back pain, and fatigue rather than classic chest pain. Although the symptoms may be similar, the effects of the condition and the care necessary can differ significantly for women. In addition to the physiological differences, unequal access to information, care and healthcare further increases the health risks for women worldwide.

Nowhere is the need to accelerate progress more urgent than in emerging markets. In many of these countries, women continue to face gender-based vulnerabilities that require urgent attention. Cultural factors such as discrimination on the basis of their gender leads to many health issues for women, including increased risk of infectious diseases and mental health issues. The World Health Organisation reports that women in developing countries are almost twice as likely as men to experience depression, and a study conducted in China in 2009 found that mood and anxiety disorders were more prevalent in women than in men.

Furthermore, thanks to changes in societal lifestyle norms, women in emerging markets are increasingly feeling the health impacts of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as cardiovascular disease, cancers and diabetes, conditions all once thought to mainly occur in wealthier countries. NCDs affect women inequitably, have been the leading causes of death among women globally for at least the past three decades, and are now responsible for two in every three deaths among women each year. This burden is expected to increase substantially in the coming decades, especially in low and middle income countries.

There is still much to do to improve healthcare for women around the world; facts like these highlight the need for celebrating International Women’s Day, and demonstrate the huge opportunities there are for improving women’s health worldwide, but particularly in emerging markets. Understanding women’s role in society in these markets is integral to working towards improved access to healthcare and ensuring communications are designed to reflect their reality. To find out more about women’s health, including how to conduct market research with women in emerging markets please contact us.

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