Can insight from a Global Women’s Health Index inform action to help break the bias?

 January 14, 2022

Gender has a significant impact on health.

Women comprise nearly half of the global population and carry considerable influence and impact when it comes to the wellbeing of their families, communities, and the economy. Yet the health and wellbeing of women and girls is of particular concern because sadly they are disadvantaged by discrimination deeply rooted in sociocultural factors in many economies.

There are many factors where the existence of bias prevents women and girls from benefiting from quality health services and attaining the best possible level of health, including:

  • unequal power relationships between women and men
  • reduced education and paid employment opportunities
  • predominant focus on women’s reproductive roles only
  • physical, sexual and emotional violence

Poverty itself remains a significant barrier to women's positive health and further impacts women's ability to support their families.

The World Health Organization states that: 

  • pregnant women are 40% are anaemic
  • approximately 810 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth
  • 295,000 women who died of maternal causes in 2017
  • 311,000 women died from cervical cancer in 2018 with more than 85% of these deaths occurring in low and middle income countries

Better health and equal opportunities for women

The 2021 Global Health 50/50 report Gender Equality: Flying blind in a time of crisis reviews the equality and gender-related policies and practices of global organizations active in health and health policy. The report finds that action to dismantle gender inequality inside organizations and to apply a gender lens in health programmes remains scarce. "Gender inequality is not inevitable; it is made by people and reinforced in systems and organisations, including global health. And it can be unmade within those same systems," states the report.

In a male-default world, the report finds that gender as a driver of everyone's health, including that of men and boys, remains under-addressed. The result is gender-blind responses that are less effective than they should be, with consequences for the health of women everywhere.

Flying Blind reports on the appointment of mostly male global health leaders, predominantly from high-income countries, with the mandate to exert influence over the health and wellbeing of people worldwide. Data reveals little progress towards gender equality and diversity in leadership across the health sector and a lack of progress on closing the gender pay gap among organizations mandated to report on it.

"The Global Health 50/50 report is a unique and essential accountability mechanism in this challenging time...I encourage leaders of all global organisations active in health to use the GH5050 report and take bold, appropriate and long overdue steps with evidence-based decisions."
Kumsal Bayazit, CEO, Elsevier

A global index measuring women’s health

Women's health product provider Hologic has been looking into the state of health for women and girls worldwide.

Hologic gave themselves an audacious goal: To lead the way for better health and well-being for 3.9 billion women, while rallying the world to join them. To support this goal, Hologic created the world’s first Global Women’s Health Index.

The goal of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index is to contribute to extending the life expectancy of women around the world and improving their quality of life.

Interviews were conducted throughout 2020 with just over 120,000 men and women aged 15 and older in 116 countries and territories. With almost 4 billion women on the planet, the Index provides a small glimpse into the health of some of those women.  

"With purpose, passion, and a promise to enable healthier lives everywhere, every day, we'll not only help nearly half the planet, but all of it," says Hologic as it promises is to bring better care and treatment to billions of women worldwide.

Opportunity exists to improve women's health

Hologic believes the opportunities to improve women's health are staggering and is calling on world leaders, change-makers, and society as a whole to take notice of the situation and act quickly to improve women’s health everywhere. Being better educated and aware about the state of women's health worldwide can help break down the bias that prevails.  

"By focusing on women’s health and working together to address key issues, we can not only improve women’s lives, we can also realize social and economic progress globally...The Hologic Global Women’s Health a multiyear, comprehensive global survey about women’s health. Through it, we can listen to women and men in their own words, and track progress on key women’s health issues globally and by country...Through this report, women are telling us what they need. We all need to listen. Then act, together."
Stephen P. MacMillan, Hologic Chairman, President & Chief Executive Officer

Women's health rankings by country and territory

Hologic ranks countries and territories as based on a combined and weighted score (0-100) of five dimensions linked to higher female life expectancy:

  • preventive care
  • basic needs
  • opinions of health & safety
  • individual health
  • emotional health 

The Hologic Women's Health Index ranks countries with a score out of 100. In 2020, the global average was just 54 with the highest score (69 out of 100) going to Taiwan and the lowest to Peru (36).

Together, policy makers, government, charities and industry can work collectively to help women lead longer, healthier lives.

Download the full report.


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