"If women are denied a chance to develop their full human potential, including their potential to lead healthier and at least somewhat happier lives, is society as a whole really healthy? "
It’s not my question — it’s the question raised by Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization which just finished up it first — first? — study of women’s health.
Their verdict? Societies are still failing women. While women provide the bulk of health care, they rarely receive the care they need. Sound familiar?
Worldwide, WHO reports women do the caring — at home, at hospital, at clinics — yet those very same institutions fail them.
Take HIV/AIDS. Up to 80% of all health care and 90% of care for HIV/AIDS-related illness is provided in the home – almost always by women. Yet women remain uncared for, poorly protected and as a result, HIV is now the leading cause of death and disease among women between the ages of 15 and 44. Survive to older age, and the two leading killers of women are heart disease and strokes. Why? Because women show what one friend of mine was told were "atypical" symptoms. And as long as the male minority on the planet is considered the typical patient — women will keep dying because of that fact.
Sound strident? No it’s just common sense — the WHO tries to win governments over by offering economic incentives to act: because women tend to live longer than men, better deal with their health problems now or pay more later.
But really. "We will not see significant progress as long as women are regarded as second-class citizens in so many parts of the world," Dr Chan said. Unequal power relations, she continued, "translate into unequal access to health care and unequal control over health resources." "What does this say about the state of social progress in the 21st century?" asks Dr. Chan. One can only wish she’d ask Rep. Stupak and the House Democrats.
Laura Flanders is the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.