The sexual and reproductive health care needs of women around the world are poorly served due to a variety of factors, including a shortage of trained personnel and inadequate funding for necessary medications and contraceptives.
Access to and utilisation of services like contraceptive care and STI testing have both suffered as a result of the pandemic.
According to the 2022 Access to Medicine Index – Special Report on Women’s Health and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, there is an even more fundamental problem: the science simply does not exist to treat many of the issues women and girls face (SRHR).
While cancers of the breast, ovary, cervical, and uterus are relatively well-addressed, the report finds that other women’s health conditions fall through the cracks and have no treatments in the works. The wellbeing of mothers is often disregarded.
Deficiencies in research and development
Non-communicable diseases are getting more attention in the development pipeline because they offer pharmaceutical companies the potential for higher profits than, say, contraceptives or maternal health services.
This lack of commercial incentive has led to a product gap in areas like human papillomavirus (HPV) diagnostics and medicines for postpartum haemorrhage, both of which have negative effects on women’s sexual and reproductive health.
The World Economic Forum’s Shyam Bishen, who oversees the initiative “Shaping the Future of Health and Healthcare,” concedes the gravity of the situation.
Women’s health needs funding and new approaches immediately. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved 37 new prescription drugs in 2022, but only two of them were specifically targeted at women’s health issues. This is not just a problem for 2022, he says; rather, there are too few innovative solutions for women.
Women’s healthcare access issues can be especially severe in low and middle-income countries. Too often, women are not able to access health care that is adequate according to both medical and human rights standards.
There are 11 diseases or health needs specific to women that should be prioritised in these countries but are not even being studied at the moment. Preeclampsia and other forms of pregnancy-related hypertension, certain sexually transmitted infections, and birth control are examples.
Some gaps, like the lack of a vaccine against chlamydia, are being worked on, though.
Bishen, of the Forum, is optimistic that more coordinated efforts will lead to development.
“Strong partnerships must be built between the private and public sectors in order to achieve better investment and innovation in women’s health issues, as conversations across sectors is essential to improve long-term women’s health.”
Lessening the death toll by closing the gaps
According to data compiled by the World Health Organization, high-income countries have a much lower maternal mortality rate (11.1 deaths per 100,000 live births) than low-income countries (46 deaths per 100,000). Reasons for this include inconvenient travel to medical facilities and a dearth of readily available treatments.
The World Economic Forum’s 2022 Global Gender Gap report estimates it will take another 132 years to reach gender parity based on current progress, and statistics like these contribute to the chasm that separates the sexes.