Assessing the State of Global Women’s Health

On March 23rd, Meridian hosted a virtual discussion on COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on women around the world and how gender continues to serve as a determinant of healthcare access and outcomes. In partnership with Hologic, the interactive briefing focused on the how the longstanding health inequalities between men and women have only been exacerbated by the onset of COVID-19. Panelists discussed the need for a new global health agenda; one that prioritizes a gendered approach, addresses the distinct differences in health needs between men and women, serves communities where they live, and broadens the focus to encompass not only maternal health.

Moderated by Dr. Nicole Saphier, Breast Imaging Specialist, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Fox News Channel Contributor, this Diplocraft panel discussion featured:  

  • Ambassador Nancy Brinker, Founder, Susan G. Komen Foundation and      Promise Fund of Florida 
  • Jim Clifton, CEO, Gallup 
  • Stephen MacMillan, Chairman, President and CEO, Hologic 
  • Kelly Saldana, Director of the Office of Health Systems, USAID 

Top takeaways from the conversation:

  1. “WHAT GETS MEASURED GETS DONE”. It is difficult to attract attention to a problem if that problem, or the root of that problem, cannot be measured—but data is only useful if it is used and implemented. The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, conducted as part of Gallup’s World Poll, examines the state of reproductive and sexual health, preventative care, and well-being facing populations in 116 countries. With findings to be published later this year, the index is based on survey responses from over 120,000 men and women in 40 different languages. Data will look at differences in perception between men and women, rural and urban populations, and majority and minorities populations on issues like women’s access to care. This is the first globally comparative study of women’s health, which will allow experts to track progress and target interventions as they seek to improve outcomes around the world. 
  2. HEALTH INEQUITIES MUST BE CONFRONTED BY WOMEN AND MEN ALIKE. The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index will include findings on the differences in perception between men and women on the state of healthcare in their countries, which will yield useful data for governments, NGOs and private sector entities. Speakers advised that in order to change the health outcome for women around the world, men need to fully support women in seeking care and empowering women to make decisions that affect their health.  Panelists also noted that while women often form the backbone of medical care, working as assistants and nurses, there are not always clearly established career paths for women to enter leadership roles. Men need to enable and champion women to claim leadership positions both in clinical settings and in the policymaking task forces that examine women’s health.
  3. WOMEN’S HEALTH CARE MUST PRIORITIZE TRUST AND DIGNITY. Every woman should be taken seriously when she goes to her doctor. Data shows that women routinely receive lower quality care from heath care providers, which contributes to distrust. There is negative spillover from poor maternal health care in cases where women feel that they have not been treated with dignity or provided with adequate privacy while receiving intimate care, and that, in turn, prevents women from seeking out care for themselves or their children in the future. Empowering women to be catalysts and leaders in their local communities can also improve trust in medical care. 
  4. TRANSFORMATIVE ROLE OF COMMUNITY CARE. Most people want their healthcare to be readily accessible where they live, and in the U.S., zip codes often determine the access to quality care that individuals receive. There can be a disconnect between federal programs and community health programs, which limit access for under-resourced and minority communities. Locally-led approaches are proven to be transformative in communities; when women are able to access quality care for themselves and for their families, it can change their lives. Next week, USAID is launching a new vision to strengthen health systems around the world, focusing on equity, quality and resource optimization. 
  5. PREVENTATIVE CARE CONTRIBUTES TO BETTER OUTCOMES AND ECONOMIC SUCCESS. Speakers pointed to a report last week that showed that around 10,000 women in the UK went under- diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year. They noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has limited access to the preventative screenings that detect breast cancer in its early stages and mentioned that doctors are seeing more severe cases now that patients are returning for regular screenings. Tackling health problems in their early stages relieves burden on hospital systems, and enables women to return to work, care for their family members, and participate in the local economy.
  6. SECTORS CAN WORK WITHIN THEIR ESTABLISHED ROLES COLLECTIVELY FOR IMPROVED OUTCOMES. Non-profit organizations like Susan G. Komen and the Promise Fund of Florida play a critical role in raising awareness of women’s health and educating the public about the importance of prevention, access, and indicators of illness. Private enterprises can innovate and act quickly to respond to critical health needs—we’ve seen it firsthand this year with the development of COVID-19 vaccines.  Governments can also work to create more equitable health systems and provide the necessary resources to local communities to improve care. By connecting the dots, we can make meaningful progress everywhere.   


Project summary

Assessing the State of Global Women’s Health | March 2021
Number of Attendees: 71
Regions: East Asia and Pacific, Europe and Eurasia, South and Central Asia, Western Hemisphere
Countries: Ecuador, Guatemala, United Arab Emirates, Poland, Indonesia, United States
Impact Areas: Empowering Women and Girls, Global Health
Program Areas: Diplomatic Engagement
Partners: Private Sector