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International Women’s Day Provides Opportunity To Renew Commitment To World’s Girls

In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” opinion piece, Kate Roberts, vice president of corporate marketing, communications and advocacy at Population Services International, marks International Women’s Day, to be recognized on March 8, and its 2012 theme, “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures.” She says “the story of Facebook exemplifies precisely why the global community needs to invest in young minds and young leaders — especially girls,” and speculates what might have happened if Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg “had been born a girl in Rwanda.” Roberts outlines what could happen to Rwandan girls growing up, including dying because of malaria or diarrhea before age five; missing out on educational opportunities; dying in childbirth at a young age; or contracting HIV.

Congress Must Protect International Family Planning Funding

“Opponents of birth control don’t just want to limit access in the U.S., they want to slash U.S. support for international family planning programs. It’s a perennial debate, and it’s about to start all over again,” Chloe Cooney, director of global advocacy at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, writes in an RH Reality Check blog post. President Obama’s FY 2013 budget “demonstrates the value the administration places on family planning,” as “funding for international family planning programs is preserved,” she writes, noting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent testimony to Congress about the budget proposal, in which “she consistently reiterated the importance of development as a key pillar of our foreign policy and national security strategy” and “the administration’s focus on women and girls as central to these goals.” Cooney concludes, “The president’s budget protects U.S. investments in family planning programs around the world. Now it’s up to Congress to make sure those funds remain intact” (3/5).

World Bank Should Re-Evaluate Programs To Reduce Maternal Mortality

“The World Bank boasts that it has positioned itself as a ‘global leader’ in reproductive health, especially for youth and the poor,” but in 2011, it dedicated “just 0.2 percent of its $43 billion budget” to reproductive health projects, and much of that money was provided as loans, which can “leave poor countries indebted and threaten to divert domestic spending away from vital public health services,” Elizabeth Arend, program coordinator at Gender Action, writes in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters Blog.” In addition, “[t]here is a striking mismatch between countries’ maternal mortality rates and the bank’s spending on reproductive health,” Arend states, citing the examples of Sierra Leone, where the lifetime average risk of dying from pregnancy or childbirth is one in 35 and the World Bank provides $7.43 per person, versus Niger, Liberia, or Somalia, where women “face an average lifetime one in 17 risk of maternal death, yet these countries receive no reproductive health funding from the bank at all.”

Incorporating Gender Policy In USAID Programs Is ‘Good Business Practice’

USAID Deputy Administrator Ambassador Donald Steinberg writes in the White House Council on Women and Girls blog, “I am proud to say that USAID” last week released “a new policy on gender quality and female empowerment, the Agency’s first in 30 years,” “achieving great strides and reaffirming our commitment to close the gender gap in international development.” He continues, “From Presidential initiatives like Feed the Future (FtF), the Global Health Initiative (GHI), and Global Climate Change to the full range of the Agency’s programs, we are ensuring that gender is not just being included, but fully incorporated. Eliminating gender bias and empowering women isn’t just a question of fairness or equity: it’s simply good business practice” (3/5).

WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports

“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.

IPS Examines Gender Discrimination, Disparity In Child Mortality In India

Inter Press Service examines gender discrimination and mortality in India, writing, “Global infant and child mortality rates have been on the decline in recent years, with a large portion of the world seeing young girls experiencing higher rates of survival than young boys; but India remains the exception to this positive trend.” A new report, “‘Sex Differentials in Childhood Mortality,’ a project of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), reveals that a girl aged between one and five years is 75 percent more likely to die than a boy in India, marking the world’s most extreme gender disparity in child mortality,” according to the news service.

USAID Unveils New Policy To Promote Gender Equality, Women’s Empowerment

USAID on Thursday unveiled a new policy that aims to ensure gender equality and empower the world’s women and girls, Deseret News reports. “While USAID has addressed gender issues in the past, results have been mixed, according to a report [.pdf] released Thursday in conjunction with the policy launch,” the news service writes. “‘We know that long-term, sustainable development will only be possible when women and men enjoy equal opportunity to rise to their potential,’ said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah during a White House event,” Deseret notes (Stuart, 3/1).

Global Fistula Care Map Aims To Connect Women In Need With Health Facilities

“In an effort to coordinate prevention and treatment of fistula across the globe, targeting outside help where it can do the most good,” the non-profit Direct Relief International has developed an interactive Global Fistula Care Map, “display[ing] more than 150 health facilities that provide fistula repair in 40 countries across Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East,” Miller-McCune reports. “‘Documenting where treatment is available is critical to providing care, raising resources, and restoring the health and dignity of women and girls living with fistula,’ Gillian Slinger, the United Nations Population Fund coordinator of the Campaign to End Fistula, was quoted in a release [.pdf] announcing the map,” the news service writes (Skenazy, 2/29).

Women Need More Contraception Options That Protect Against Pregnancy, HIV

In this Huffington Post “Black Voices” opinion piece, Vanessa Cullins, vice president for external medical affairs at Planned Parenthood Federation of America, responds to an announcement by the WHO in February that the agency would not revise its contraception guidelines for women living with and at risk of HIV infection based on a “study suggesting that hormonal contraception increases women’s risk of [acquiring and] transmitting HIV to their partners.” A panel found “there was not enough evidence” to support women abandoning hormonal contraception and concluded there should be “no restrictions on hormonal contraception,” Cullins states.

March Issue Of WHO Bulletin Available Online

The March issue of the WHO Bulletin features an editorial on global shortages of medicines; a public health round-up; an article on breast cancer awareness; a research paper on interventions for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa; and a paper on the global burden of cholera (March 2012).