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Need to prioritise women's health needs (1 May 2021)

Need to prioritise women's health needs (1 May 2021)

Context:

  • Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu has called for according the highest priority to the health needs of women, who constitute nearly 50% of the country’s population. Speaking at an event, the Vice President said we will not be able to create a healthy society if the health needs of women are neglected. He said various health interventions must focus on bolstering and meeting women’s health needs since they form the bedrock of a healthy society.

Background:

  • According to the 2011 census, sex ratio in India stands 940 females for every 1000 males.

  • Some states have very skewed sex ratio and low socio-economic status of women and violence against women are very high in these states.

Summary of the Debate

Some of the major public health problems that women in India are largely facing today:

  • The discrepancy starts from the beginning itself, there are 940 girls per 1000 boys, so that means we have got a sex ratio of 940 girls.

  • Through the process of adolescence, more than about 70 percent of the girls who are anemic and when they cross through their adolescence period, there is a problem of menstrual problems which are unaddressed.

  • The woman who is a teenage pregnant also has got 3 times more chances of dying as well because she delivers early and then there is more chances of rupture.

  • Around 70 percent of Indian women are suffering from reproductive tract infections which may lead to infertility, it may lead to abortions, it may lead to different kinds of problem which are perceived as kind of normal and she is not able to seek health care.

  • The nutritional status of women in India is a matter of serious concern.

Factors that are leading to this neglect of health of women:

  • Public spending on health in India is around 1.15% of GDP.

  • Early marriage in girls is still prevalent in certain sections of our society.

  • Least access to basic education and health facilities.

  • We have got problems like gender-based violence, unpaid kind of care work, etc.

Impact of pandemic on the well-being of women largely across the country:

  • In context of COVID-19, 70 percent of work forces women which are frontline workers, healthcare workers or the laundry woman, company health workers, they do not have access to a simple thing like PPEs all and they become more vulnerable for infections as well.

  • During the pandemic, more than 50 percent of women work is unpaid care.

  • They are infected and affected both, that means if they get infection, there is no this thing that they don't have to take care of the family members who are also infected at home settings.

  • If the woman is sick and she is admitted, her mean number of days of admission are much less as compared to the male counterparts. Even if she's suffering from COVID-19 infection and she is admitted, her number of days in which she is discharged are lesser.

What efforts are being undertaken by the government?

  • Janani Suraksha Yojana (2005): It is a safe motherhood intervention under the National Rural Health Mission (NHM). It is being implemented with the objective of reducing maternal and infant mortality by promoting institutional delivery among pregnant women.

  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (2015): It is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and Ministry of Human Resource Development that aims to generate awareness and improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls in India.

  • Health and wellness centers (2018): A very significant step taken in 2018 to provide comprehensive health care. It is responsible for providing free essential Drug and diagnostics Services. Today, we have about 75,929 health and wellness centers and we are going to have 1,50 000 of them.

  • Universal Midwifery Services Initiative (2019): To create a cadre of Nurse Practitioners in Midwifery who are skilled in accordance to competencies prescribed by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and are knowledgeable and capable of providing compassionate women-centred, reproductive, maternal and newborn health care services.

  • School Health and Wellness Ambassadors Initiative (2019): This is run in conjunction with health department and with education department, where training is given to the teachers as ambassadors and then these monitors in the schools who actually will talk to their peers about these issues.

Way Forward:

  • India and its economy need a healthy women workforce because increasing women's labor force participation by 10 percent points could add about $700 billion to India's GDP if all goes well by the year 2025.

  • The mantra to ensure that women access health care is to have reliable good health care near women and one of the few initiatives that we took and which is now actually rectifying is to have midwifery services.

  • Women access health if it is near their homes, because in their multiple roles that they have, they can take out very little time for themselves and if the health facility is nearby, they access it.

  • Policies are there but action has to be begin in homes, it has to begin in our minds because if women are empowered, if women are healthy, then the whole family and the nation will be so.

  • Even in our school settings the issues of gender have to be flagged.

  • The empowerment comes from within and that has to be facilitated by the family members, by the girl child themselves or by their husbands and it's a kind of an overall empowerment which will play a very crucial role.

  • There is also need to educate the males in the society which will bring about a change.

Conclusion:

  • What is to be tackled is multi-sectoral that is people's mindset, the women's education then ensuring that there's no child marriage, access to contraceptives access to health care all these are important.

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