‘There are still many challenges in women’s health segement in India’ | The Financial Express

‘There are still many challenges in women’s health segement in India’

According to the World health organisation, in 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally.

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India has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, with many women dying as a result of complications during childbirth or pregnancy-related issues. (File)

Every year, 8 March is marked as International Women’s Day to bring attention to issues such as gender equality, reproductive rights, and violence and abuse against women.

Women are responsible for 70-80% of all the healthcare provided in India. India’s healthcare sector has advanced tremendously since the country gained independence in 1947. But have we done enough to address women’s health issues?

According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, India now ranks 140th out of 156 nations in terms of gender disparity. Raheel Shah – Director at BDR Pharma pvt Ltd. told Financial Express.com that women’s health in India has come a long way over the years, but there is still a long way to go.

“India has made some significant strides in improving women’s health outcomes, particularly in the areas of maternal and reproductive health. The government has taken steps to improve access to healthcare services for women, particularly in rural areas,” Shah told Financial Express.com.

‘Progress in the area of family planning and reproductive health’

According to Shah, there has been progress in the area of family planning and reproductive health. India’s family planning program has made significant strides in increasing contraceptive use among women and decreasing the fertility rate.

“The country has also made progress in reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS and improving access to treatment for those affected. However, despite these advances, there are still many challenges facing women’s health in India. Women in rural areas, for example, continue to face significant barriers to access healthcare services, including lack of transportation and limited availability of health facilities,” Shah told Financial Express.com.

Furthermore, women in India face a range of health issues that are not specific to reproductive health, including malnutrition, anaemia, and mental health disorders.

Shah pointed out that these issues are often exacerbated by poverty, social stigma, and cultural norms that limit women’s autonomy and decision-making power.

“To address these challenges, there is a need for continued investment in women’s health programs, particularly those focused on addressing the unique needs of women in rural areas and those facing multiple health challenges. Additionally, efforts to promote gender equality and empower women to make decisions about their own health and well-being are crucial in improving overall women’s health outcomes in India,” he added.

Current Challenges in Women’s Health

There are several challenges that women face when accessing healthcare facilities in India. Some of the current challenges include:

Lack of accessibility: Women living in rural areas often have limited access to healthcare facilities. They may have to travel long distances to reach the nearest healthcare center, which can be difficult and expensive.

Lack of affordability: Healthcare services in India can be expensive, and many women may not be able to afford the cost of healthcare services. This is especially true for women from low-income households.

Gender bias: Women may face discrimination and bias in healthcare settings, which can prevent them from receiving proper care. This can include negative attitudes from healthcare providers, as well as a lack of understanding of women’s health issues.

Lack of awareness: Many women in India may not be aware of their rights and the healthcare services that are available to them. This can prevent them from seeking help when they need it and lead to delays in treatment.

Role of Pharmaceutical Industry in Women’s Health

According to Shah, the pharmaceutical industry has played a significant role in women’s healthcare by developing and providing medications, devices, and other treatments for various conditions that specifically affect women.

“Some of these conditions include breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, infertility, menopause, and osteoporosis. In recent years, the industry has also focused on developing new treatments for conditions that were previously under-addressed, such as female sexual dysfunction and postpartum depression,” he told Financial Express.com.

According to the World health organisation, in 2020, there were 2.3 million women diagnosed with breast cancer and 685 000 deaths globally. As of the end of 2020, there were 7.8 million women alive who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past 5 years, making it the world’s most prevalent cancer.

“Keeping this data, the urgency, affordability, and accessibility issues in mind Pharmaceutical industry has developed new generic medicines to make breast cancer treatment more affordable. The introduction of more and more Indian generic drugs will make the treatment affordable for people with weaker economical backgrounds,” he added.

Recent Trends in Women’s Health

India, like many other countries, is facing a range of health issues and challenges that are specific to women. According to Shah, here are some recent trends with respect to women-associated diseases and ailments in India:

Breast cancer: Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in India. Recent trends show that the incidence of breast cancer is increasing rapidly in India, with over 150,000 new cases diagnosed each year. This can be attributed to changing lifestyles, increased urbanization, and greater awareness about the disease.

Reproductive health issues: India continues to face significant reproductive health issues, including high rates of maternal mortality and morbidity, low rates of contraceptive use, and high rates of teenage pregnancies. These issues are compounded by a lack of access to healthcare and education in many parts of the country.

Mental health issues: Mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety, are becoming increasingly common among women in India. A range of factors, including social stigma, lack of access to mental healthcare, and gender-based discrimination, contribute to this trend.

Women’s Sexual Health in India

Shah told Financial Express.com that India has made some progress in women’s sexual health in recent years, but there is still a long way to go to achieve gender equality in this area.

Some of the key issues and challenges facing women’s sexual health in India include:

Limited access to sexual and reproductive health services: Many women in India, especially those living in rural areas or belonging to marginalized communities, face significant barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services. This can include a lack of information about contraception and safe sex practices, limited availability of contraceptives, and stigma around seeking out sexual health services.

High rates of maternal mortality: India has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world, with many women dying as a result of complications during childbirth or pregnancy-related issues. This can be linked to a lack of access to adequate healthcare during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as limited education and awareness around maternal health.

Gender-based violence and harassment: Women in India face high levels of gender-based violence and harassment, which can have a significant impact on their sexual health and wellbeing. This can include sexual assault, domestic violence, and other forms of violence and discrimination.

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First published on: 08-03-2023 at 18:04 IST
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