Championing Women’s Healthcare Needs: Towards Equity & Empowerment

Enriching women’s healthcare delivery is a vital step to gender equality in India. It’s important to consider the facts – currently, India ranks 140th of 156 countries on gender inequality, based on World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report.iThis reflects the country’s performance on numerous dimensions – health and survival, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and political empowerment. To pave the way for gender equality, it is imperative to scale efforts to support girls and women across growth indicators. One such way is to advance women’s healthcare, such as by supporting women to take charge of their health through initiatives that ensure equitable access to quality care.

The latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) showcased a picture of progress on gender equality and healthcare in India. More women nationwide have their own phones (although there remain disparities in rural India) now more than ever before. Additionally, married women’s household decision-making relating to healthcare increased from 73.8% in 2015-16 to 92% in 2020-21. Even as growth is visible across women’s healthcare, there are still gaps to bridge.

Women’s key health needs are divided across several categories, from hormonal or nutritional insufficiencies (such as anemia), pregnancy complications and maternal mortality, to menopause and noncommunicable diseases like thyroid dysfunction. These can affect all aspects of a woman’s life, including social life, personal finances, and workplace productivity, in addition to overall health and wellbeing. Despite solutions existing, many women are hesitant to seek help. This is often because women deprioritize their own health compared to other family members. Through awareness, education, and scaling up of access to services, we can begin to address issues across a woman’s entire life cycle.

For example, by 2025, there will be 1.1 billion menopausal women in the worldii. These are women in the prime of their life, possibly at the height of their careers, on whom society depends. Yet many women experience this life stage as a negative one. Half of menopausal women are unlikely to seek medical help for their symptoms – even if some can be debilitating, owing to factors like social stigma and low awareness. As menopause is a natural stage of life, it should be recognized by society as such, with more openness to talk about it, its symptoms, and ways to alleviate them. 

Community-wide awareness initiatives can address such taboos and myths, which typically delay diagnosis and prevent women from living their full potential. As we look ahead at the future of healthcare, promoting early and preventive care is important. For example, women have a different set of nutritional requirements than men. Their biological needs vary with their menstrual cycles, various stages of life, vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, and so on. For a woman, her diet depends on her physical activities, metabolism and body type, with a higher need for minerals and vitamins, while ensuring the intake of iron and folic acid is maintained.

Also, to ensure women feel confident in opening up about their health, holistic support is key. It is important for women to have access to safe spaces so that they feel comfortable to have conversations where they can be empowered with relevant information and tools to manage their health concerns. By increasing opportunities for trusted interaction between health care professionals and patients, support, and psychological counselling options, we can foster high-quality patient centric care. Women, couples, or families taking the time to understand both the physical and emotional aspects of health complications have a greater chance of coping with situations better.

Moreover, women’s health education is important not just for patients, but also for healthcare practitioners. This especially holds true for misdiagnosed and unrecognized conditions like endometriosis and anemia. By skilling healthcare practitioners, such as through training modules, we can expand the base of their knowledge regarding latest developments and effective practices. Pregnancy, for instance, can be a time filled with joy but also worries. To avoid health complications and support maternal health and safer childbirths, Abbott introduced Gynecology Anemia checklists across India with the Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) to help doctors better manage iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Such measures streamline service delivery across the board with latest evidence-based recommendations.

As such healthcare solutions become available to support physicians and patients, another part of the larger picture must be to scale access. To reach women with healthcare solutions in underserved areas, including rural and peri-urban regions, collective action by multiple stakeholders is key. National and state governments, industry bodies, private players and public-private partnerships are all integral to a sustainable approach. Abbott supports work to overcome urban-rural disparity in accessing healthcare services, hospitals, and treatment through the Abbott Strengthening Healthcare Access (ASHA) initiative. Working with the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on educational programs, we also aim to empower healthcare professionals and rural health care workers to improve treatment options in rural areas. Leveraging collective strengths to set up and support primary health centre capacities are ways to reach women with health information and get a step closer to equitable health coverage.

By having access to trusted information, women can address health issues they may have previously neglected and thrive in their personal, social, and work life. In fact, Abbott is working to foster science-based learning amongst 1,500 young children – 45% of whom are girls – from socially disadvantaged communities. In addition to helping improve their problem-solving skills through access to digital tools for science-based learning, we are working to improve their knowledge of health challenges such as non-communicable diseases, nutrition and menstrual hygiene, while also providing them with access to indoor and outdoor sports. By empowering them with skills to be future-ready, such as by promoting healthy choices and preventive behaviours, we intend to ensure they maintain good health to reach their full potential.

Women’s health needs to be a nationwide priority, upheld through the synergies between collaborative efforts and advanced health solutions. At Abbott, we believe that health and dignity are vital to every human being’s ability to live a full life. We aim to continue to invest in expanding the scope of healthcare for women and girls so we can advance the future of equity and empowerment in Indian healthcare.

This article is meant for general awareness only and is not meant to be a promotion of the product in any manner whatsoever. This listicle should not be considered as a substitute for doctor’s advice. Abbott shall not be held liable in any manner whatsoever for any action based on the information provided in this listicle and does not hold itself liable for any consequences, legal or otherwise, arising out of information in this listicle. Please consult your doctor for more information. 


iiChapter 1: Menopause. Accessed September 7, 2021.