#Health and Hygiene

Women’s Health Remains A Back Burner Issue Even In 2022

Indian women's health, marrying because of ageing parents,
As a society, we have always lauded women for their sacrifices, for not making themselves a priority and always catering to the needs of others. They are expected to be the caregivers but who is caring for them? Women’s health remains to be one of the most under-researched areas even now.

Take heart disease for example. According to a report by Kelly Burrowes, the founder of women’s health technology marketplace FemTech and a Senior Research Fellow at the Auckland Bioengineering Institute, women are diagnosed with heart disease seven to 10 years later than men. When a man suffers from a heart attack, the symptoms are chest pain or discomfort but this classic symptom is rarely experienced by women as they show other symptoms like shortness of breath, nausea, jaw pain and vomiting more commonly. Because the medical research on heart diseases has been mostly led by men and based on male anatomy, it takes a while to diagnose women. Due to the delayed diagnosis, women stand the risk of developing other chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension too.

As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2022, let us pledge to also pay attention to the roadblocks faced by women, when it comes to healthcare and proactively work towards removing them.

Indian Women’s Health And The Roadblocks

According to the Indian Women’s Health Report 2021, half of the thousand women surveyed expressed discomfort talking about one or more women’s health issues because of the stigma attached with them. Speaking to SheThePeople, a Community Health Officer in Gumla district of Jharkhand said, “Most women in my area would rather stock up on contraceptive pills than ask their husbands to use condoms. Women often lack the support of their spouses when it comes to their health and only get treatment when things get much worse.” 

Suggested Reading: How India’s Community Health Officers Are Strengthening Country’s Backbone

The reluctance to get preventive healthcare is not just seen in rural women. Dr Sudeshna Ray, obstetrician-gynaecologist based in Mumbai, Maharashtra shared that the same reluctance is seen in urban women. She said, “Even after being aware of pap smears, cervical cancer screenings, most women refuse to get them done because they are scared of the results. The reluctance to deal with the consequences is preventing them from getting timely treatment. ”

She further observed most of her patients don’t want to be cared for. “They think that if they take rest, their husbands will have to do the work and they feel bad for it.” Dr Ray spoke about how most of women’s health concerns like anaemia, period pain, lack of libido is seen as normal phenomena when they should actually be taken up with a doctor.

According to Dr Ray, the biggest concern in terms of women’s health is lack of tailor-made guided awareness about it. Because of the abundance of information on the internet and lack of time and will to visit a doctor, most women are modifying their lifestyles by accepting the easily available information without trying to understand whether the information is fit for them or not. This applies to all health concerns from mental to physical, she added.

As per a report by National Centre for Biotechnology Information, India is one of the many developing countries in the world where the major cause of cancer mortality in women is cervical cancer. Every year, 67,477 women die from the disease. And yet, the rate of screenings and even the awareness among women about the disease is appallingly low. Indian Council Medical Research report stated that less than 30 percent of women in India aged 30-49 years have ever been screened for cervical cancer. The number is concerning as 483.5 million women aged 15 years and older are at the risk of developing cervical cancer, while one in 22 women in urban Indian women, one in 60 women in rural India is at risk of developing breast cancer in her lifetime.

The need for women to get preventive healthcare is dire. We need policies to bring more and more women to the health centres for accessible and economically sound screenings and treatments. We also need to remind the women around us to pay attention to themselves, their body and its need. We need more and more women to understand that is absolutely fair to put their needs first and take care of their mental and physical health.