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Women and Health-An Indian Scenario by Vibhuti Patel

Women and Health-An Indian Scenario by Vibhuti Patel

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Published by Vibhuti Patel
World Health Organisation has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” which is necessary for leading a productive and fruitful life. Health is a basic human right/ women’s right. Attainment and maintenance of good health depends on women’s access to nutritious food, appropriate medicine to treat illnesses, clean water, safe housing, pollution free environment and health services. Thus, women’s health is determined by the forces working at homes, work-places, society and the state. According to Dr. Amartya Kumar Sen, “Burden of hardship falls disproportionately on women” due to seven types of inequality- mortality (due to gender bias in health care and nutrition), natality (sex selective abortion and female infanticide)), basic facility (education and skill development), special opportunity (higher education and professional training), employment (promotion) and ownership (home, land and property).
Women as growing human beings, home-makers, workers, mothers and elderly citizens face different types of health related issues. Women’s health is determined by the material reality generated by socio-economic, cultural forces as well as gender relations based on subordination of women. It is important to make men aware about women specific health needs. Improvement in women’s health is a precondition for development of her family. For an effective public education on the above-mentioned issues, charismatic personalities should teach the “Women and health” module. How to engender medical education? This question needs to be addressed. There is also, a need for gender sensitive books for the health practitioners.
World Health Organisation has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” which is necessary for leading a productive and fruitful life. Health is a basic human right/ women’s right. Attainment and maintenance of good health depends on women’s access to nutritious food, appropriate medicine to treat illnesses, clean water, safe housing, pollution free environment and health services. Thus, women’s health is determined by the forces working at homes, work-places, society and the state. According to Dr. Amartya Kumar Sen, “Burden of hardship falls disproportionately on women” due to seven types of inequality- mortality (due to gender bias in health care and nutrition), natality (sex selective abortion and female infanticide)), basic facility (education and skill development), special opportunity (higher education and professional training), employment (promotion) and ownership (home, land and property).
Women as growing human beings, home-makers, workers, mothers and elderly citizens face different types of health related issues. Women’s health is determined by the material reality generated by socio-economic, cultural forces as well as gender relations based on subordination of women. It is important to make men aware about women specific health needs. Improvement in women’s health is a precondition for development of her family. For an effective public education on the above-mentioned issues, charismatic personalities should teach the “Women and health” module. How to engender medical education? This question needs to be addressed. There is also, a need for gender sensitive books for the health practitioners.

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Published by: Vibhuti Patel on Jan 19, 2011
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Women and Health – An Indian Scenario
Prof. Vibhuti Patel,Director, PGSR & Professor & Head, PG Dept. Of Economics,SNDT Women’s University,Smt. Nathibai Rd, Mumbai-400020E mail:vibhuti.np@gmail.commobile-9321040048 Phone-26770227®, 22052970(O)
World Health Organisation has defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental andsocial well-being” which is necessary for leading a productive and fruitful life. Health is a basic human right/ women’s right. Attainment and maintenance of good health depends onwomen’s access to nutritious food, appropriate medicine to treat illnesses, clean water, safehousing, pollution free environment and health services. Thus, women’s health is determined by the forces working at homes, work-places, society and the state. According to Dr. AmartyaKumar Sen, “Burden of hardship falls disproportionately on women” due to seven types of inequality- mortality (due to gender bias in health care and nutrition), natality (sex selectiveabortion and female infanticide)), basic facility (education and skill development), specialopportunity (higher education and professional training), employment (promotion) andownership (home, land and property).
1
 
Nutrition-
Balanced diet containing carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals make ahealthy body and healthy mind. Only 10% of women are fortunate to have the privilege of nutritious diet. Majority of women in our country work more than men and for longer period but eat less, the last and the left over of poor quality of food. Their energy expenditure is notcompensated by intake of diet as it is inadequate and lacks in nutrition. India has the highest prevalence of iron deficiency anaemia in the world. 87% of pregnant women, about 68% inthe reproductive age group and about 60-70 % of adolescent girls in our country areanaemic.
2
This is the major reason for high level of morbidity among Indian women. TheGovernment Organisations (GOs) and Non government Organisations (NGOs) need to makea concerted effort to provide iron rich and vitamin C rich low-cost and locally available foodsto women through active nutrition education and change in dietary habits.
Common Illnesses
- Women specific common illnesses are aches/pains (back, head, stomach,uterine), weakness, fevers, respiratory problems, gastro-intestinal problems, skin, eye, ear  problems and reproductive problems such as reproductive tract infection, white discharge,endometriosis. CEHAT
3
study reveals that morbidity is much higher among women thanmen. Middle-aged women have arthritis, menopause related hot flushes and uneasiness
4
, 
1
Amartya Sen : “Many Faces of Gender Inequality”, an inauguration Lecture for New Redcliff Institute atHarward University, 24-4-2001.
2
Institute of Health Management- Prevent Anaemia Now, Pachod, Maharashtra, 2002.
3
Sunil Nandaraj, Neha Madhiwalla, Roopashree Sinha and Amar Jesani : Women and Health Care in Mumbai-A Study of morbidity, utilisation and expenditure on healthcare by the households of the metropolis, CEHAT,Mumbai, 2001.
4
Iqbal Grewal and Manju Purohit:
Women’s Health- A Complete Guide
, Gyan Sagar Publications, Delhi, 1999.
1
 
osteoporosis, migraine and swelling of legs. In both, rural as well as urban areas, proportionof physical immobility is higher among elderly women than among elderly men.
5
 Women are last one to be taken to a doctor and they have the least access to rest, healthyrecreation, exercise and sports. All these combined together aggravate the situation andfurther deteriorate women’s health.
Availability of Health-care
: Women avail four types of health services. First of all, themajority of women try home remedies, failing which they approach either a homeopath,ayurvedic doctor, unani healer or the allopath. Those who can’t afford private practitioner’sfees go to a trust run clinics/hospitals, government hospitals or Primary health care centres(PHCs) or the health care facilities provided by the non-government organisations. Duringthe last decade, yoga, meditation.
6
, reiki, aerobics have become extremely popular among themiddle and upper class educated women
7
, while the poor women approach witch doctors. Population of India102.7 croresMales53.1 croresFemales49.6 crores
Deficit of women in 20013.5 croresSex ratio (no. of women per 1000 men)933
Source: Census of India, 2001
Attitude Towards Women’s Health
: Social discrimination against women results intosystematic neglect of women’s health, from womb to tomb. Female infanticide and femalefoeticide are widely practiced in BIMARU (Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh) and DEMARU (Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat) states.
8
 As per 2001 census, there were only 933 women per 1000 men and there was a deficit of 3.5 crorewomen . Sex-ratio is the most favourable to women is Kerala. But , in Kerala also, in the 0-6age-group , the sex ratio was 963, as per 2001 census. Total 0-6 age-group population of Kerala was 36.5 lakhs. Out of this 18.6 lakhs were male babies and infants and 17.9 lakhswere female babies and infants. Thus, 79760 female babies and infants were missing in 2001in Kerala. This masculanisation of sex-ratio is as a result of selective abortion of femalefoetuses after the use of ultra-sound techniques to determine sex of the foetus.
9
Sex Ratio of different States of IndiaStateSex Ratio- Females per 1000 males
5
Uday Shankar Mishra: “Health Implications of Ageing”,
Medico Friends Circle
, Pune, Nov.-Dec. 1999.
6
Prabha Krishnan:
 Health Care, Earth Care, Interrogating 
H
ealth and Health Policy in India
, Earthcare Books,Mumbai and Calcutta, 1998. p.42
7
Family Medicine in India, Official publication of IMA College of General Practitioners, New Delhi, April-June, 1999.
8
Ashish Bose; “Without My Daughter- Killing Fields of the Mind”, The Times of India, 25-4-2001.
9
Mridul Eapen and Praveena Kodoth: Demystifying the “High Status” of Women in Kerala, An Attempt toUnderstand the Contradictions in Social Development, Centre for Development Studies, Kerala, 2001.
2
 
India933Andaman & Nicobar Islands846Andhra Pradesh978Arunachal Pradesh901Assam932Bihar921Chandigarh773Chhatisgarh990Dadra & Nagar Haveli811Daman & Diu709Delhi821Goa960Gujarat921Haryana861Himachal Pradesh970Jammu & Kashmir900Jharkhand941Karnataka964Kerala1058Lakshadweep947Madyapradesh920Maharashtra922Manipur978Meghalaya975Mizoram938 Nagaland909Orissa972Pondicherry1001Punjab857Rajasthan922Sikim875Tamil Nadu986Tripura950Uttarpradesh898Uttaranchal964West Bengal934
Source: Census of India, 2001
.As a result of sex-determination and sex-preselection tests, sex ratio of the child populationhas declined to 927 girls for 1000 boys. Sixty lakh female infants and girls are “missing” dueto sex-selective abortion of female foetuses and pre-conception rejection of daughters.
POPULATION IN THE AGE GROUP 0 TO 6 YEARS IN 2001, INDIA
INFANTS AND CHILDREN - ALL15.8 CRORES3

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