International Day of Action for Women’s Health: A call for equality in healthcare

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the already existing inequalities in healthcare and the present situation calls for an urgent need in addressing the same and lack of access to healthcare for women.

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Investment in innovative solutions for low cost, high-quality self-testing and point-of-care testing devices is very crucial for universal access to diagnosis. (Image Credit: Pixabay)

By Sriram Natarajan

Though the population of women in India has surpassed men still there are a lot of facets in life where women are struggling to achieve gender equality. Gender equality is understood to be that stage of human development at which the rights, responsibilities and opportunities of individuals are not to be determined by the fact of being born as a male or a female.

One of the most important aspects, where gender equality is an absolute must, is women’s healthcare. According to a collaborative study conducted by the researchers at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), the Indian Statistical Institute, Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, and Harvard University, gender-based discrimination harms women’s health in India. The experts found that only 37% of women got access to health care, as compared to 67% of men. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the huge gaps in our healthcare infrastructure and the need for rapid and accurate diagnosis at all levels of society.

Governments across the world have taken steps towards improving women’s health in line with commitments made in key international summits. In India, significant progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality.

Women’s healthcare needs attention

According to a report published in 2021 by the KFF organisation on “The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic”, women represent over half (55%) of all adults (15-49 years) living with HIV worldwide, and HIV (along with problems related to pregnancy) is the resultant cause of death of women of reproductive age. Tuberculosis is often linked to HIV infection and is among the leading causes of death among women aged 20-59 years in low-income countries. Other than that Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea, and Trichomoniasis are major causes of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infertility in women. Group B Streptococcus infection causes an approximate 150,000 preventable stillbirths and infant deaths per year, globally. The types of cancer affecting women, especially breast and cervical cancer, resulting in high rates of mortality and morbidity.

Breast cancer, the leading cause of death from cancer in women, is diagnosed in low and middle-income countries mostly at advanced stages when palliative care is the only option. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women and the third leading cause of death in most cases of women who have limited access to screening and treatment of precancerous lesions, with resultant late-stage identification. The major inequalities in access to early detection and screening lead to variations in clinical findings and survival after treatment.

What solutions can be explored

Investment in innovative solutions for low cost, high-quality self-testing and point-of-care testing devices is very crucial for universal access to diagnosis. Truenat® Real-Time PCR platform is one such solution that has gold-standard PCR technology and can be deployed anywhere in the world with minimal infrastructure. With a growing menu of assays for infectious diseases, this rapid, portable technology enables early and accurate diagnosis and initiation of accurate treatment right at the first point of contact.

Truenat® facilitates the testing for STDs such as HPV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Trichomonas and Mycobacterium genitalium and tests for Group B streptococcus is important for the child and maternal health.

Conclusion

The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the already existing inequalities in healthcare and the present situation calls for an urgent need in addressing the same and lack of access to healthcare for women. Timely testing and effective screening of women leading to an appropriate diagnosis will ensure a significant reduction in the infection and mortality rates resulting in universal access to healthcare.

(The author is Founder, Director & CEO, Molbio Diagnostics. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of FinancialExpress.com.)

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