Lack of health care seen worsening women's life quality

Mon Nov 9, 2009 9:17am EST
 
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By Laura MacInnis

GENEVA (Reuters) - Despite living six to eight years longer than men, women lack essential health care throughout their lives, particularly as teenagers and elderly people, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

In a report, the WHO said that women around the world are "denied a chance to develop their full human potential" because many critical medical needs are ignored.

"Women generally live longer than men, but their lives are not necessarily healthy or happy," Margaret Chan, the head of the United Nations health agency, said at the WHO on Monday.

Though women tend to seek out medical services more often than men -- particularly before, during and after pregnancy -- they often fail to get adequate treatment to cope with violence, depression and problems related to old age, such as dementia.

"The obstacles that stand in the way of better health for women are not primarily technical or medical in nature. They are social and political," Chan said.

Childbirth assistance can be particularly hard to access for unmarried and marginalized women, teenagers and sex workers, WHO said in its first attempt to log differences between men's and women's health over their lifetimes.

"In many countries, sexual and reproductive health services tend to focus exclusively on married women and ignore the needs of unmarried women and adolescents," the report said.

"Paradoxically, health systems are often unresponsive to the needs of women despite the fact that women themselves are major contributors to health, through their roles as primary care givers in the family and also health care providers," it said.   Continued...