3 reasons investing in women’s health is smart

Three women wearing head scarves with red cross insignia and smiling.

When improvements in global health focus on women, you might be surprised at what happens to men. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Guest contributor Amie Batson is PATH’s chief strategy officer.

As a woman who has been working in global health for two decades and the mother of two girls, I think a lot about how to remove the roadblocks that hold women back. At PATH, health equality for women and children is a top priority—and it’s been a passion of mine throughout my career.

Portrait of Amie Batson

Amie Batson explains how helping women helps men. Photo: PATH/Patrick McKern.

Yet there’s one question I’m often asked when I talk about women’s health: what about men?

The reasons we focus on women and children are compelling, driven by a wealth of data, and include good news for men. So today, as we look toward International Women’s Day on Saturday, I’d like to offer three reasons why investing in women is smart strategy and good practice.

No. 1: investing in women yields gains for everyone

There’s no question that girls and women bear the brunt of poverty and poor health, and that millions miss out on education, opportunities, and health care. In sub-Saharan Africa, twice as many young women are living with HIV as young men. An estimated 222 million women want but can’t access appropriate family planning. When food is scarce, women—even pregnant women—are still frequently the last to eat. And a woman dies every two minutes from complications in pregnancy and childbirth—almost always in a poor country, and often from causes that we already know how to prevent and treat.

Our collective outrage is one reason to tackle this inequality. But we have another reason, too: when women thrive, their families, communities, and countries thrive.

Better health, education, and opportunities for women expand economies, increase productivity, and support political stability.They empower women to raise healthier children, and more of those children survive. And when women stay well, their work as leaders, farmers, and mothers supports the entire community.

Put simply, improving women’s health and well-being is a smart investment in all people.

No. 2: our efforts are working

We also know that these investments work. Since 1990, global efforts have nearly halved  the number of women who die in pregnancy or childbirth. Improved family planning options like Sayana Press, the Woman’s Condom, and the SILCS diaphragm are allowing women to choose whether or when to have children. Better screening and prevention for cervical cancer, especially in poor countries, is saving women’s lives. And women and men everywhere are rooting out the gender-based violence that threatens women on the street and in their own homes.

No 3: our work is backed by global commitment

Together, these efforts are creating measurable and lasting improvement. What’s more, they’re backed by a collective global push that amplifies efforts at every level. Today, the world is committing bold resources to putting girls and women first. Local communities are mobilizing to improve women’s health and make pregnancy and birth safer. National governments are investing in effective, measurable, and sustainable approaches. Businesses and donors are injecting new resources and accountability into efforts. And nonprofits, including PATH, are linking innovators to bring lifesaving vaccines, diagnostics, drugs, devices, and services to more women and children.

All of this adds up to smart strategy. Empowering girls and women doesn’t just address one problem, or two, or ten. It changes the game. It is one of the fastest and most effective ways to break the cycle of poverty and poor health.

So this International Women’s Day, I would like to challenge you to do two things. First, I hope you’ll keep asking the kinds of questions that inspired this post. Then, I invite you to join us to find smart, strategic answers. It’s that kind of tenacity that is leading PATH, together with communities and partners, to transformative health solutions for women, children—and men—worldwide.

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Posted in Featured posts, Maternal and child health | Permalink

6 Responses to 3 reasons investing in women’s health is smart

  1. Pingback: Friday Five: March 7, 2014 | Marsha Ess

  2. Shoba Ramachandran

    I really like the work that PATH is doing to improve the lives of women. I would like to join in this effort. Please may I have the opportunity to contribute. In what way can I contribute, other than financially. Thank you Shoba

  3. I wish rural women could have opportunities to be empowered through their local community based organizations particularly in Management ,finance and collaborative issues in different perspectives to ensure full participation in their areas od implementation being agriculture livestock or health respectively.

  4. Kathleen Donnelly

    Hi Shoba,

    Thanks very much for your comment. Although we don’t have volunteer opportunities, PATH relies on people like you to help make the work we do possible. Check out our suggestions for how you can create buzz and support PATH and global health.

    Kathleen

  5. I support Amie Batson’s motion: Investing in women’s health is smart strategy: I worked with PATH for over 8 years, focusing my energy on HIV prevention for low income women and youth and men. Later I moved to MI and focused my energy on women and children in a project called community based maternal and newborn health (CBMNH). This is when I came face to face with reality (maternal and infant mortality around the glob). The new experiences and knowledge ignites my reason to date, to support “investing in women’s health (read all round well-being), is smart strategy”. First, designing and holding well structured and competent dialogues by well trained facilitators who simply allow women, men, pregnant women and care givers of children below 5 years to share their perspectives as well as access better and quality information and services around pregnancy forms the starting point of the investment. I am extremely convinced that if that is implemented well many of the 440 maternal lives lost daily will be saved. Second, focusing on care providers- which goes beyond skills development and service provision, to focus on them as persons with needs, needs that if left un-attended, would become barrier factors in care provision. Then third, the investment should focus on hardware health systems strengthening, policy level engagement and political advocacy. Above all, strengthen partnerships with other stakeholders to remove the social determinants to health; poverty and literacy- for holistic approach to women empowerment. This is what I‘m currently engaged in at WFP. I support the smart strategy.

  6. I believe you my sister about women empowerment both economically and health wise. I for one would not have completed my education had it not been for mum. She tried her best even when things were so hard on her part just to make sure we had something to eat books for school and school fees.
    and here I am a man benefiting from the effort of this woman.
    Dad was working but never used to give mum money, he could just spend his salary on beer. I would therefore, wish to join your band wagon to support women empowerment.

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