‘Robust Dialogue’ Needed About Equity of Women in Healthcare

Article Originally posted at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/887276

“At least 75% of the health workforce are female, and looking around this room…there is no shortage of talented women in the pipeline. But the picture looks different at the top, ” Michele Barry, MD, director of the Stanford Center for Innovation in Global Health and senior associate dean for global health at Stanford University in California, told the audience at the inaugural Women Leaders in Global Health conference.

“With every step up the ladder, the proportion of women shrinks. The World Health Assembly is 68% men; 70% of health leaders are men; and, at least in US medical schools and public health schools and global health institutes, men predominantly hold the top positions, despite the fact that global health has become increasingly feminized. In Fortune 500 countries around the world, 26 out of 27 health center [chief executive officers] are men. ”

“How can we succeed when half of the talent sits on the bench, and how can we have a robust dialogue? ” Dr Barry asked.

The fast-paced conference was held at Stanford University School of Medicine, on October 12. Aims of the meeting were to recognize women leaders in global health, help women develop leadership skills, and empower younger women to become leaders.

Why Gender Matters in Global Health

Gender matters in global health for many reasons. Women confront many major health issues, including childbirth, reproductive disorders, cervical cancer, violence, and poverty.

Every 2 minutes a woman dies — still — in childbirth, Afaf Meleis, PhD, DrPS(hon), dean of nursing emeritus, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, said. These deaths are preventable 60% of the time.

“We are not immune in the United States; our maternal mortality rate is increasing by the day. Right now, it ‘s 26.4 out of 100,000 births. In Finland, it is 3.8. We [have the worst maternal mortality rate] in the developed world,” Dr Meleis said. Female genital mutilation is still common in some parts of the world, and many women die from abortions. Almost all abortion deaths are due to unsafe abortions, and not the procedure itself, she added.