|HDD-(PHN)FLASH, newsletter on Population, Health and Nutrition of the Worldbank Human Development Department (WB)|
|PHNFLASH 2 December 6, 1993|
Electronic Newsletter on Population, Health and Nutrition
Population, Health and Nutrition (PHN) Department, World Bank
Women, Health, and Development
Here are excerpts from a paper presented by Anne Tinker, Senior Health Advisor during a conference on Women's Health and Nutrition held last May at the Rockefeller Foundation Center in Bellagio, Italy:
Since the 1960's several initiatives have influenced women's health status in developing countries. Understanding of the important, but previously largely undervalued, role of women has increased greatly during the past 15 years, stimulated in large part by the United Nations Decade for Women. The Safe Motherhood Initiative, launched in Nairobi in 1987, successfully focused world attention on the magnitude of maternal mortality in developing countries and the need to improve maternal care.
Family planning efforts are increasingly oriented toward providing women with reproductive choice and the ability to avoid unwanted and poorly timed pregnancies. Recently, child survival efforts have recognized the significant impact of maternal health and nutritional status on infant outcome; this is reflected in the inclusion of maternal mortality goals in the recommendations of the World Summit for Children, held in 1990. While the family planning and child survival initiatives have been successful in bringing about dramatic reductions in fertility and infant mortality, there has not been comparable progress in improving women's health and nutrition, not even in reducing maternal mortality, which has received specific attention. Since the Nairobi Safe Motherhood Conference, over three million women have died from pregnancy-related causes. The annual number of maternal deaths has actually increased; although women's risk of dying as a result of pregnancy or childbirth has fallen by five percent during the past five years, the number of births has increased by seven percent over the same period.
It is appropriate that development policies and programs to improve women's health place special emphasis on pregnancy and childbirth in developing countries, due to the proportion of the life span spent in reproduction, its associated risks, and the high mortality and morbidity that result from largely preventable and/or manageable pregnancy-related complications. At the same time, these activities need to be increasingly complemented over the longer term by efforts to improve women's health and nutritional status more broadly. This requires attention to problems that often begin in infancy due to the lower status of girls, such as poor nutritional status due to discrimination in the allocation of food. Reproductive health problems include unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Several other gender-specific health ISSUEs will require increased attention in certain cultures, such as chronic diseases in transition societies where older women form a growing proportion of the population, occupational hazards that place women at particular risk, and violence in societies where physical or sexual abuse are prevalent.