Assessing the Health Status of Women Globally

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 4:05 PM

Carol J. Huston, RN, MSN, DPA, FAAN
Director, California State University Chico, Chico, CA

Learning Objective 1: compare maternal morbidity/mortality rates globally and identify factors impacting these outcomes including poverty, hunger, the lack of skilled birth attendants, and cultural practices.

Learning Objective 2: contrast literacy and primary school enrollment rates for men and women globally and explore how efforts to promote gender equality/empower women impact these outcomes.

Purpose: This presentation will examine outcome data as of 2009 related to four United Nation's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): #1 (the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger), #2 (the achievement of universal primary education), #3 (the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women) and #4 (the improvement of maternal health).

Methods: More than 60 quality indicators exist to measure progress in meeting the eight MDGs established by the United Nations (UN) in 2000.  Data to be presented has been extracted from the UN MDG database system which includes country-level statistics from 1990 to present, as well as from a comprehensive review of the literature. 

Results: Women globally are disproportionately represented in extreme poverty, vulnerable employment, and illiteracy. As a result, their health outcomes are significantly and negatively impacted. Although women perform two-thirds of the world’s unpaid labor and grow more than 70 percent of the world’s food supply, they account for 70 percent of those living in poverty. Two-thirds of the children who do not attend primary school worldwide are girls, and 75 percent of the world’s illiterate adults are women. At least 500,000 prospective mothers in developing countries still die annually in childbirth or of complications from pregnancy.

Conclusion: Progress has been slow in improving the health status of women globally. Several of the 2015 MDG targets related to improving the health status of women globally will likely not be met. The links between promoting gender equality/ empowering women and their health outcomes must continue to be explored.