| Gender issues in health projects and programmes |
|4. Gender issues in primary health care|
How would the preceding analysis of gender issues in health inform approaches to future programming for health care ? It has been stated that health projects, including those that work on 'women's health', are often gender blind. The reasons for this may be traced to two major factors. First is a limited understanding of disease, as a purely biological phenomenon caused by the action of micro-organisms on the individual, or due to degeneration and wear and tear of the body; and consequently, of ill health as a purely medical issue amenable to technical solutions. The second major factor is a lack of gender analysis.
Some important issues to be taken note of, when planning health projects and programmes are as follows:
· Women's health needs are different from those of men, not only because they are biologically different, but also because their social realities are different; the health risks they encounter are different, as also their health-seeking behaviour.
· Women are not only mothers and wives, but have multiple roles, as producers, reproducers and as members of patriarchal communities. This renders them more vulnerable to health risks than men. The disadvantages suffered in each role complicates any existing health condition. It is therefore not sufficient to provide the same kind of health care to both sexes even for health problems common to both, such as communicable diseases. Programmes have to be designed with an awareness of how the same health problem may affect women differently.
· Women's health needs extend throughout their life cycle, and beyond their reproductive roles. In addition to problems related to reproduction, women are also exposed to all the health problems that affect men. They therefore need far more than maternal health care. Surprisingly, even reproductive health problems have received very little attention in countries and programmes, including Oxfamsupported programmes. There is need for more research and better understanding of reproductive health issues so that these may be better addressed in future.