Today the whole Luma Health squad, including this particularly rad group of women, celebrated International Women’s Day. Every day we come to the office proud to be working to improve access to care and help providers better and more efficiently engage their patients. For International Women’s Day, we’re giving special attention to the unique health needs of women across the globe and here in our own country. Here are five facts about women’s health that every healthcare professional should know as we all work together for healthier and happier patients.
#1: Access to feminine hygiene products is one of the most widely experienced women’s health issues.
It impacts 1.2 billion women globally—that’s nearly a third of women worldwide. For 1 in 10 girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, lack of access to feminine hygiene products means missing a fifth of the school days in a given year. Even in St. Louis, Missouri, nearly two-thirds of low-income women were unable to afford menstrual hygiene products in the past year, according to a recent study. “We had women tell us they had gone to the emergency room for the sole purpose of getting a pad,” said Anne Sebert Kuhlman, author of the St. Louis study.
#2: Women are still at serious risk of dying during childbirth.
Women in low-income countries are 20 times less likely to be have a birth attended by a skilled health worker. Closing this gap in access to health professionals would save over 700,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization. Even within the United States, 700 women die each year from childbirth. The majority of these deaths are preventable. And huge disparities exist in who is dying from childbirth—black women 2.6 times as likely to die in childbirth as white women in the U.S.
#3: There are 570,000 new cases of cervical cancer each year—it’s the most prevalent form of cancer among women.
Though largely preventable, preventive care is falling behind. One study conducted in Minnesota found that over a third of women were not up-to-date on their cervical cancer screenings. “This is a preventable disease and women should not be getting it, let alone dying from it,” said Anne Rositch who studies cervical cancer deaths at Johns Hopkins University .
#4: Access to care in this country is a huge challenge for millions of women—and it’s contributing the poor health outcomes above.
Women are more likely to forgo healthcare in general due to cost concerns than men are. When it comes to accessing prenatal care, 12 percent of Native American women in this country are not getting prenatal care or forgoing care until the third trimester, compared to only4 percent of white women. Half of women in the country aren’t receiving the recommended postpartum care. Even for those who are able to access care, there is nothing timely about it. Women are waiting an average of 24 days for an OBGYN appointment.
#5: Yes, there is some good news.
First of all, globally, maternal mortality is on the decline. It decreased 34 percent between 1990 and 2008. Some states in the U.S. have made huge strides in seriously curbing maternal mortality like California, which has lowered its maternal mortality rate by 55 percent between 2006-2013 through better data collection and training. Finally, more women are getting mammograms, and that has led to cutting breast cancer death rate by 33 percent in the past 30 years.
We did not even begin to scratch the surface of women’s health disparities internationally and within our own country. There is still so much work to do to improve access to care, public health, and quality care for women worldwide. During International Women’s Day, we’re dedicating these facts to all the women working toward a healthier world. A balanced world is a better world.