Women’s health and nutirition – A glance

Dr Kshetrimayum Bimolata Devi
Women’s health differs from that of men in many unique ways. It is an example of population health. In many areas of health they experience more severe disease with poorer outcomes. Gender remains an important social determinant since women’s health is influenced not just by their biology but conditions such as poverty, unemployment & family responsibilities. They are disadvantaged in social and economic power which restricts access to many necessities of life including healthcare.
Co morbidity with cardiovascular disease contributes to mortality and morbidity of pregnancy. Sexually transmitted infections lead to mother to child transmissions, stillbirths, neonatal deaths, infertility etc.
Leading causes of death are Cardio vascular diseases, cancer, lung disease, breast cancer, colorectal, ovarian, uterine, and cervical cancers. Other health issues include depression, dementia, osteoporosis, anemia etc.
Women living below poverty line are at greater risk. Financial burdens, poor education, lack of transportation, difficulty obtaining childcare, are barriers to accessing healthcare. For women with demanding careers, domestic and occupational stress leaves little scope of self awareness and their psychological needs.
A major impediment to advancing women’s health has been their underrepresentation in research studies, an inequity being addressed in the United Nations and other western nations.
Women’s health is an issue which has been taken up by many feminists, especially where reproductive health is concerned. The International women’s movement was responsible for much of the adoption of agendas to improve women’s health.
There is also the glass ceiling that women face in careers in science and in obtaining resources from grant funding to salaries and laboratory space. Globally women fill only 21% of fulltime professor positions in science and 5% of those in engineering.
But women comprise half of the world population, perform two-third of its work, while receiving only one-tenth of its income and own less than 10% of the world assets (UN Report).
Today, many UN agencies (WHO, UNFPA, UNICEF) maintain specific programmes on women’s health (maternal, sexual, reproductive), both directly and indirectly.
Goals and Challenges: (1) Research is a priority in terms of women’s health. It should include diseases unique to women. (2) Increase the proportion of women involved in healthcare and health researches. (3) Assume leadership in Government. (4) Centers of higher learning. (5) In the private sector etc
Women’s health is crucial for the prosperity of family and society. But still, women’s access to healthcare remains a challenge both in developing and developed countries.
Improvement in women’s health status will not be possible unless basic health needs are met through comprehensive, integrated and holistic healthcare at an affordable cost within easy geographical reach.
They should have access to information that would enable them to protect themselves and their family against infections and diseases and to maintain their health.
Focus on self care: As nutritious food is the most powerful weapon to fight the calamitous effects of any disease, appropriate dietary modifications are needed. Adequate well balanced diet is a pre requisite to a healthy immune system. A balanced diet is the diet that contains all essential nutrients in adequate quantity and quality. Good nutrition means getting enough macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients help maintain the body weight. Micronutrients keep the cells working properly, but will not prevent weight loss. It is important to have basic knowledge og foods and nutrition as even those who have high earning power indulge in faulty eating habits.  Exercise more. Sleep better. Eat a healthy diet. Exercise is important especially in Diabetes (Type II) & CVD. Avoid risky habits (Smoking, alcohol, unsafe sexual habits, drugs, couch potato, fast foods, etc.). Manage stress (breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga). Sun safety.
Check for breast cancer. Stay positive (important for mental health).
Today, many women lead high pressure lives, managing careers and family. Yet, it is important to remember that, health is important. Not just for ourselves. But, for the success of wider society and the economy. Health is not a short term state, but a long term investment.
Mission of this write-up: To assist women to be in a position of power for making informed decisions about their health. Keep ourselves informed. Be future focused.  We are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions, all day, every day. Make health an easy topic of conversation.
To avoid health complications, common illnesses, signs & symptoms of diseases, and importance of sharing and talking out to friends, family, doctors. Research what is possible for your age and fitness level. Collectively, each one of us can help create a gender equal world. A healthy woman today is a better tomorrow. Do what you can to truly make a positive difference for women everywhere. So start making positive changes now.
The wirter is Assistant Professor (Food Science, Nutrition & Dietetics), Dept. Of Home Science, Ideal Girls’ College, Imphal.