Women’s Health Summit Addresses Crisis Of Global Proportions
The numbers alone are staggering: 58% of people infected with AIDS are women; one-quarter to one-half of all women have suffered abuse from an intimate partner, and two million women and girls are bought and sold into sexual slavery each year. But the dismal statistics are not the only reason why the University of Pennsylvania Schools of Nursing and Medicine convened the “Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women’s Health: Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World.” As participants at the recent Summit noted, the “haves” of this world, particularly educated individuals and educational institutions, bear a particular responsibility to address the compelling issue of women’s health and safety. The message was clear: Women are the caretakers. They create the social fabric that keeps societies and nations together, and — when given the opportunity — they have proven to be successful and resourceful entrepreneurs. Below, Knowledge at Wharton reports on the two-day conference.
While participants in the recent “Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women’s Health: Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World” agreed that gender disparities affecting access to health care are a major problem, they also cited an often overlooked, but just as detrimental, barrier to women’s health — the West’s cultural naïveté when trying to “fix” problems in other parts of the world. Speakers at the conference discussed biases and stereotypes that have an impact on women, not just in Third World countries, but in the U.S. as well.
To the surprise of no one who attended the recent “Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women’s Health: Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World,” the most critical issue in women’s health care today is HIV/AIDS. Indeed, in some parts of Africa, 60% of those testing positive for HIV are women, and the fastest-growing rate of new infections in sub-Saharan Africa occurs among young women. According to some experts, local and national governments alone can’t beat back the “female face” of AIDS; what’s needed are the resources of the business community, ranging from jobs to technological advancement to health care delivery.
Attending a conference on women’s health and safety at the global level, one might expect to hear reports from doctors and scientists about new technologies and medications to address specific health issues. If only it were that simple. Instead, participants at the recent “Penn Summit on Global Issues in Women’s Health: Safe Womanhood in an Unsafe World” heard a complex story of poverty, illiteracy, limited access to the formal economy and inadequate property rights — some of the conditions that most directly affect women’s health and their ability to care for themselves and their families. It is among these seemingly ancillary problems, said Summit speakers, that we will find solutions to the greatest health challenges facing women today.