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European women's health needs people-centred approach, says WHO

Call comes as it develops new health and wellbeing strategy for the region
WHO women's health and well-being

The World Health Organization has called on European countries to make their health systems more “people-centred” in order to improve women's health and wellbeing.

It comes as the WHO's Regional Committee for Europe prepares a strategy to help European countries their meet targets from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for advancing women's health.

Chief among these is eliminating care disparities to provide a universal quality of care for women across the region.

To illustrate the challenge countries face, the WHO issued a new report that was published to coincide with the committee's session in Copenhagen earlier this week. 

'Women's health and well-being in Europe: beyond the mortality advantage' provides a snapshot of European women's health.

It found that, as of 2015, women born in Andorra, Spain, France and Switzerland can expect to live to at least 85 years of age, whereas life expectancy for women from Turkmenistan falls at 70 years.

WHO regional director for Europe Zsuzsanna Jakab said: “Health systems are slowly adapting to address women's health issues beyond reproduction.

“This report recognises the responsibility of health systems in responding to women's health needs and promoting gender equity in the health sector's formal and informal workforce.”

To achieve gender equity in healthcare, the WHO report suggests that frontline services become more “gender-sensitive” by placing the individual needs and social circumstances of the patient at the forefront of their care.

For example, despite it being one of the main causes of mortality, the perception of risk for cardiovascular disease in women is low.

Western European countries have the highest rates of cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and ischaemic heart disease, commensurate with growing obesity issues, but the cardiovascular disease burden is still present in women across the region depending on attention to risk and prevention.

Likewise, mental health is outlined as a rising health and wellbeing need in adolescent women, with self-harm accounting for approximately 13% of all deaths in European women aged 15-19 in 2013, the second highest cause.

The WHO's report, a backdrop to its forthcoming strategy, also identifies how wider social and political factors like culture, education, environment and religion, not just healthcare systems, contribute to the 15-year life expectancy difference in women across Europe.

But it is clear the healthcare systems have an “essential” role to play in advancing women's health and wellbeing and achieving gender equity in Europe.

Article by
Rebecca Clifford

16th September 2016

From: Healthcare

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