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Women in Global Health Newsletter, Issue 9

Welcome to an exciting issue of Women in Global Health’s Newsletter! In this issue, we summarize the events held at the 70th World Health Assembly (WHA) that focused on gender equality and women’s leadership, held by our team and partners.

Women in Global Health sought to continue the advancement of the role of women in global health leadership at the WHA, calling on the Global Health community and the World Health Organization (WHO) to make commitments to gender equality in leadership. We also created space to recognize and celebrate great women who have shaped global healthcare in their communities through our Heroines of Health Gala.​

This was our third attendance at the WHA, and Women in Global Health approached this event with specific objectives aimed at: 1) Increasing the visibility of women’s leadership within global health; 2) Encouraging relevant organizations and institutions to create more gender equal work environments; 3) Motivating prominent individuals to commit to promote gender equality within their organizations; 4) Ensuring that stakeholders and the general public are well informed of actions, knowledge outputs, and results that WGH delivers; 5) Fostering a more gender transformative environment in global health, especially at the WHA.

From all that we accomplished in Geneva, our team has brought back the key messages from this year’s World Health Assembly events to your inbox. We hope you learn as much as we did.

In this issue:

·         Event Summaries from the WHA70
·         Reflection Blog – First 100 days: Priorities for the Next DG
·         Call to Action
·         Key Tweets from the World Health Assembly
·         Women Leaders Spotlight – Heroines of Health
·         Upcoming Events 

World Health Organization (WHO) Statement on caesarean section rates

WHO convened a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, on 8–9 October 2014 with the objective of (1) establishing the current WHO position on the CS rate or range for optimal maternal and perinatal outcomes at population level, and (2) agreeing on a proposal for a tool to monitor CS rates at facility level. The Statement on Caesarean Section Rates recently released by WHO summarizes the results of the systematic reviews and analyses conducted for this purpose and conveys the thinking emerging from the discussions of the meeting.

The Case for Addressing Gender and Power in Sexuality and HIV Education: A Comprehensive Review of Evaluation Studies By Nicole A. Haberland

International Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health

To explore whether the inclusion of content on gender and power matters for program efficacy, electronic and hand searches were conducted to identify rigorous sexuality and HIV education evaluations from developed and developing countries published between 1990 and 2012.

Alcohol: A Women's Health Issue

Alcohol presents yet another health challenge for women. Even in small amounts, alcohol affects women differently than men. In some ways, heavy drinking is much more risky for women than it is for men.

With any health issue, accurate information is key. There are times and ways to drink that are safer than others. Every woman is different. No amount of drinking is 100 percent safe, 100 percent of the time, for every woman. With this in mind, it’s important to know how alcohol can affect a woman’s health and safety.

The Environment and Women's Health Fact Sheet

Chemicals and other substances in the environment can cause serious health problems in women, such as cancer, lung disease, or reproductive system problems. They can also make health conditions worse. Scientists are studying the ways toxins in the environment may play a role in conditions such as breast cancer, endometriosis, and menopause. This fact sheet offers information about these toxins and steps you can take to limit exposure.

Women and Health: the key for sustainable development

Girls’ and women’s health is in transition and, although some aspects of it have improved substantially in the past few decades, there are still important unmet needs. Population ageing and transformations in the social determinants of health have increased the coexistence of disease burdens related to reproductive health, nutrition, and infections, and the emerging epidemic of chronic and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Simultaneously, worldwide priorities in women’s health have themselves been changing from a narrow focus on maternal and child health to the broader framework of sexual and reproductive health and to the encompassing concept of women’s health, which is founded on a life-course approach.

Research News

Human rights in the new Global Strategy

Jyoti Sanghera, Lynn Gentile, Imma Guerras-Delgado, Lucinda O’Hanlon, Alfonso Barragues, Rachel Louise Hinton, Rajat Khosla, Kumanan Rasanathan, Marcus Stahlhofer

BMJ 2015;351:h4184
Women’s, Children’s, and Adolescents’ Health
Published online: 14 September 2015


The Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health (2010), with its emphasis on participatory decision making processes, non-discrimination, and accountability, affirmed the importance of human rights. Despite important gains following its launch women, children, and adolescents continue to experience serious violations of their health and health related human rights, including discrimination in access to quality healthcare. A human rights based approach must thus be fully integrated throughout the Global Strategy.

The right to health is recognised by several legal tools and treaties relating to human rights, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A human rights framework for realizing the right to health of women, children, and adolescents calls for national governments to ensure that health facilities, goods, and services are of good quality, are available in sufficient quantity, and are physically accessible and affordable on the basis of non-discrimination. Health facilities, goods, and services must also be acceptable— that is, gender and child sensitive and  respectful of confidentiality and the requirement for informed consent, among other things. A human rights based approach is based on accountability and on empowering women, children, and adolescents to claim their rights and participate in decision making, and it covers the interrelated determinants of health and wellbeing (box). Because a human rights based approach promotes holistic responses, rather than fragmented strategies, and requires attention to the health needs of marginalised and vulnerable populations, it is a valuable tool for improving health outcomes…

HRP News July 2015

The new edition of HRP News is now available – this is the latest update from WHO Department of Reproductive Health and Research including HRP.

You can access this newsletter at the following link, which you can also tweet and share: []

 If you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, you can do so here

Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer

It’s no secret that breastfeeding benefits babies, but it may also protect their mothers’ health. A new study finds breast cancer patients who breastfed their children were at lower risk of recurrence

Women's Brains May Have Tougher Time Recovering From Concussion

MRI study suggests working memory doesn’t bounce back quickly as it does in men. 

Menopausal Women at Lower Heart Risk Than Men of Similar Age

In a new study, researchers found that postmenopausal women had a lower risk of dying from heart attack than did men of similar ages.

World Health Organization: Ten top issues for women's health

Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health through the Life-course, World Health Organization

We’ve come a long way since 1995–and it is time to celebrate women and their achievements. But it is also time to take stock of how women’s rights are fulfilled in the world –especially the right to health. Twenty years after countries signed pledges in the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, women still face many health problems and we must re-commit to addressing them.

Here are ten of the main issues regarding women’s health that keep me awake at night:

Cancer: Two of the most common cancers affecting women are breast and cervical cancers. Detecting both these cancers early is key to keeping women alive and healthy. The latest global figures show that around half a million women die from cervical cancer and half a million from breast cancer each year. The vast majority of these deaths occur in low and middle income countries where screening, prevention and treatment are almost non-existent, and where vaccination against human papilloma virus needs to take hold.


Reproductive health: Sexual and reproductive health problems are responsible for one third of health issues for women between the ages of 15 and 44 years. Unsafe sex is a major risk factor – particularly among women and girls in developing countries. This is why it is so important to get services to the 222 million women who aren’t getting the contraception services they need.

Maternal health: Many women are now benefitting from massive improvements in care during pregnancy and childbirth introduced in the last century. But those benefits do not extend everywhere and in 2013, almost 300 000 women died from complications in pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these deaths could have been prevented, had access to family planning and to some quite basic services been in place.

HIV: Three decades into the AIDS epidemic, it is young women who bear the brunt of new HIV infections. Too many young women still struggle to protect themselves against sexual transmission of HIV and to get the treatment they require. This also leaves them particularly vulnerable to tuberculosis – one of the leading causes of death in low-income countries of women 20–59 years.

Sexually transmitted infections: I’ve already mentioned the importance of protecting against HIV and human papillomavirus (HPV) infection (the world’s most common STI). But it is also vital to do a better job of preventing and treating diseases like gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis. Untreated syphilis is responsible for more than 200,000 stillbirths and early foetal deaths every year, and for the deaths of over 90 000 newborns.

Violence against women: Women can be subject to a range of different forms of violence, but physical and sexual violence – either by a partner or someone else – is particularly invidious. Today, one in three women under 50 has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a partner, or non-partner sexual violence – violence which affects their physical and mental health in the short and long-term. It’s important for health workers to be alert to violence so they can help prevent it, as well as provide support to people who experience it.

Mental health: Evidence suggests that women are more prone than men to experience anxiety, depression, and somatic complaints – physical symptoms that cannot be explained medically. Depression is the most common mental health problem for women and suicide a leading cause of death for women under 60. Helping sensitise women to mental health issues, and giving them the confidence to seek assistance, is vital.

Noncommunicable diseases: In 2012, some 4.7 million women died from noncommunicable diseases before they reached the age of 70 —most of them in low- and middle-income countries. They died as a result of road traffic accidents, harmful use of tobacco, abuse of alcohol, drugs and substances, and obesity — more than 50% of women are overweight in Europe and the Americas. Helping girls and women adopt healthy lifestyles early on is key to a long and healthy life.

Being young: Adolescent girls face a number of sexual and reproductive health challenges: STIs, HIV, and pregnancy. About 13 million adolescent girls (under 20) give birth every year. Complications from those pregnancies and childbirth are a leading cause of death for those young mothers. Many suffer the consequences of unsafe abortion.

Getting older: Having often worked in the home, older women may have fewer pensions and benefits, less access to health care and social services than their male counterparts. Combine the greater risk of poverty with other conditions of old age, like dementia, and older women also have a higher risk of abuse and generally, poor health.

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