The Value of And: Global Nurses Embrace the New Lancet Commission on Women And Health

By Nancy Street, Lauren Ghazal, Maggie Sullivan, Elizabeth Glaser

The interaction between gender and health is a complex one. While we typically conceptualize it in terms of the differences between men and women that may lead to physical vulnerability, that is a very narrow view. On Friday, June 5, 2015, the Lancet Commission on Women and Health launched their report in Boston to a diverse audience of practitioners, policy makers and public health advocates, including three board members of the Global Nursing Caucus. Distinct from women’s health, the Commission put forth a new conceptual framework, one in which the vision of Women and Health expands beyond either reproductive or maternal-child health. This framework recognizes the significant contribution made by women to society, as health care providers, consumers and in the role of caregiver in their community and within the family. Not least of which is in the profession of nursing: ninety percent of the largest health care workforce globally are women. As the world prepares to adopt the Sustainable Development Goals, the Commission provides a compelling synthesis of the evidence, with new facts on the economic contributions of women in the health care workforce, as well as non-paid family and community providers. The authors estimate that in 2010, women’s contribution to health care systems was 2.35% of the global GDP for unpaid work, and 2.47% for paid work. These percentages translate into over $3 trillion US dollars, illustrating how women are motors of economic growth.

Within this new framework,  woman’s health is not exclusively focused on the reproductive period, but across the life course; the authors expand on the role of economic, environmental, political and social transitions in the health of women worldwide. Over the past four decades, women have entered the work force in larger numbers, yet still experience gender inequality. In the global economy, this inequality manifests in as lower pay, higher job insecurity and fewer opportunities for unionization, all of which perpetuate the status quo. . Environmental transitions, such as climate change and natural disasters, disproportionately impact poor and marginalized women and children across the globe, leaving them without adequate housing or food resources. Similarly, the growing burden of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have a greater impact on the health of women across their lifespans.

Unfortunately in 2015 we continue to encounter pervasive devaluation of girls and women. Gender-specific violence, such as kidnappings, sexual assaults and harassment, are a threat to all women and their health, regardless of the wealth of their countries. Greater adoption of gender-specific policies would curb such widespread devaluation and violence. Additionally, increased investments in the education of girls and women would contribute to a decrease in violence, as research shows the two are interconnected.

The Commission ultimately recommends the following: value women, compensate women, count women, and be accountable to women. These four tenets assist in the establishment of a new Women and Health movement to address these ethical and public health matters.

Link to Women and Health: the key for sustainable development.

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