Jumat, 14 Desember 2007

Gender & Women's Health

Summary: Health is not simply the absence of diseases, but the complete state of physical, mental and social well being. Gender is a contributing factor to health. Women who are afflicted with mental, social and cultural barriers may develop heart diseases, HIV/AIDS and other communicable and non-communicable diseases leading to premature disability and death. Key words: gender, women's health, HIV/AIDS.

Introduction: Gender is defined as the different roles men and women play in society. Gender plays an important part in our lives as it influences language, social structure and interactions, education and health.

Health according to WHO, is defined as not only the complete freedom from diseases but, a complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing. Many health issues are affected by gender considerations, particularly those health issues dealing with sexuality and reproduction.

Health promotion campaigns have mainly targeted the biological concerns of women's health without taking into consideration more significant concerns such as cultural beliefs, religion, politics, education, and economic conditions. These factors may be responsible for women not acquiring the necessary knowledge, and to make informed choices and to practice safe contraceptive methods, thereby increasing their likelihood of exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, in particularly HIV/AIDS.

Another, health consideration is the high incidence of nutritional deficiency among women, particularly women who are single parents with several children to feed. The emphasis here is on family survival rather at the expense of women's health. As a result the diet of these women becomes deficient in essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and fats. Even if the diet is supplemented with essential nutrients lack of sufficient rest and relaxation leads to development of stress that results in high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, strokes and premature disability and death.

CSO reported that the leading causes of female deaths in Trinidad were due to: (1) circulatory diseases (20.1%), communicable diseases (5.6 %), cancer (19.1%), and deaths from external causes (13.2 %). In 1995, the National Health Survey indicated that females had a higher disability prevalence rate of 15.2 % compared to males with disability prevalence rate of 12.1 %.

Lack of access to proper health care facilities and timely treatment are also contributing factors that negatively affect women's health. Despite the availability of some health care facilities, access to basic primary health care may be lacking. Even when primary health care is available, appropriate diagnosis and treatment may be a problem, resulting in prolonged or delayed suffering and even death.

Conclusion: Gender and women's health are important issues that need to be considered in any society. Health care facilities that tend to focus exclusively on the unique biological characteristics of females may be deficient in treating the complex array of problems that may arise with regards to gender and health. Apart from the physical characteristics, mental, religious, cultural and social well being factors must be addressed if proper health care is to be delivered.
About the Author
Dr. Pattron is a Public Health Scientist and Consultant

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