8 Women’s Health Is a Community Issue
The medical system does not meet women’s needs
Poverty and discrimination in the family and community not
only lead to more health problems for women, they also make
the medical system less likely to provide the services women
need. Government policies and the global economy may add to
In poor countries, many people do not have access to health
services of any kind. (The box below explains one reason why
this problem has become worse in recent years.) And because
of discrimination against women, the little money that does
exist will probably not be spent on women’s health needs. So
a woman may not be able to get good care even if she can
afford to pay for it. Some reproductive health services may be
provided, but to meet all of her health needs, she would have to
travel to the capital city or perhaps even leave her country.
In many countries, the skills needed to care for women are
considered ‘special’ and are provided only by doctors. Yet many
of these services could be provided at lower cost by trained
community health workers.
Debt and poor countries
Since the 1970s, when many poor countries were pressured to borrow money from
banks in rich countries, huge debts have meant that governments are still struggling
to meet the basic needs of their people. Although there has been a lot of corruption,
many countries have started new schools, hospitals, clinics, and other projects.
But as the banks demand that their money be paid back, the poor countries
have been forced to change or “adjust” their economies in ways that make life
harder for poor people. These countries are forced to use much of the wealth
the people produce to pay the banks, and to change their laws to make it easier
for foreign companies to make money by using the poor countries’ resources and
labor. Basic services like water, electricity,
communications and pensions have been
sold to profit-seeking, foreign companies.
As a result, people work harder than
ever but still have trouble meeting their
basic needs. Governments now have less
money for schools, health centers,
hospitals, and programs that help
people get food and fuel at a fair
price.The health of all poor people
suffers from these changes, but the
health of poor women and children
suffers most of all.
Many public health centers lack even the most
basic medicines, supplies and equipment.
Where Women Have No Doctor 2012