What Is Women’s Health? 1
When a woman is healthy, she has the energy and strength to
do her daily work, to fulfill the many roles she has in her family
and community, and to build satisfying relationships with others.
In other words, a woman’s health affects every area of her life.
Yet for many years, ‘women’s health care’ has meant little more
than maternal health services such as care during pregnancy and
birth. These services are necessary, but they address women’s
needs only as mothers.
In this book we offer a different view of women’s health.
First, we believe that every woman has a right to complete
health care, throughout her life. A woman’s health care should
help her in all areas of life—not just in her role as a wife and
mother. Second, we believe that a woman’s health is affected
not just by the way her body is made, but by the social, cultural,
and economic conditions in which she lives.
While men’s health is also affected by these factors, women
as a group are treated differently from men. They usually have
less power and fewer resources, and lower status in the family
and community. This basic inequality means that:
• more women than men suffer from poverty.
• more women than men are denied the education and skills
to support themselves.
• more women than men lack access to important health
information and services.
• more women than men lack control over their basic health
This larger view helps us understand the underlying (root)
causes of women’s poor health. Improving women’s health
includes treating their health problems, but
it also requires changing the
conditions of their lives so they
can gain more power over their
When this happens,
everyone—the woman, her
family and community—benefits.
A healthy woman has a chance to fulfill all
of her potential. Plus, she will have healthier
babies, be better able to care for her family, and
can contribute more to her community. This kind of
view also helps us see that a woman’s health problem
is almost never her problem alone. Women’s health
is a community issue.
➤ Good health
is more than the
absence of disease.
Good health means
the well-being of a
woman’s body, mind,
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012