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10.06.2015

Lancet Report on Women and Health Presented at the Miller School

On October 1, Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D., and Felicia Knaul, Ph.D., professor of public health sciences, hosted an event at the Lois Pope LIFE Center to discuss the findings of a new report on women and health, which was recently published in The Lancet. The report found that women’s contribution to health care constitutes nearly 5 percent of global GDP, $3 trillion, but nearly half is unpaid and unrecognized.

“The report provides an essential look at health inequities facing women worldwide, the progress that has been made in some areas and the disparities still ahead of us,” said Goldschmidt, who is also Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and CEO of UHealth. “I am proud that the Miller School of Medicine is playing a leadership role in helping address this growing public health concern.”

Knaul is co-author of the report, which offers one of the most exhaustive analyses to date of the evidence surrounding the complex relationships between women and health, and demonstrates that women’s distinctive contribution to society is under-recognized and undervalued — economically, socially, politically, and culturally.

Ana Langer, M.D., professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and lead author of the report, spoke about the key findings. “Worldwide, most providers of health care are women,” said Langer. “But the health systems to which they contribute so much are often completely unresponsive to their needs, despite the fact that they rely heavily on their paid and unpaid contributions.”

As pointed out in the report, poor women typically receive care from the most disenfranchised members of the health system, leading to ill health and perpetuation of inequities among population groups. Sustainable development needs women’s social, economic, and environmental contributions, which will increase when women are healthy, valued, enabled, and empowered to reach their full potential in all aspects of their lives, including as providers of health care.

Knaul, who is also Director of the Miami Institute for the Americas at the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “We believe that you need healthy economies and healthy health sectors, and to produce those you need healthy women who can act in ways that allow us to be able to give all that we can give to our health sectors, our societies and our communities.”

The report, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, offers a series of recommendations, including a call to recognize the importance of timely and appropriate investments in girls and women to enhance their status, strengthen health systems, and improve health outcomes, and to ensure that development planning and financing for health is responsive to the concerns and needs of women. Among other recommendations, the authors urge women to participate at all levels of decision making in society, fostering leadership in health nationally and internationally.

Speaking about how the findings of the report apply to communities in Florida, Erin N. Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate director for disparities and community outreach at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Roderick K. King, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, discussed the impact of their work and the steps that still need to be taken.

“The results of the report made me think about what all of us can do to create equal opportunities for women in the communities we work in and how that can affect health and health care,” said Kobetz, who is also Senior Associate Dean for Health Disparity. “These issues are not only relevant to women outside of the U.S. They are real problems right here in Miami and South Florida. There’s still a lot of work to do to overcome these disparities.”

“The report underlines the importance of ongoing efforts in Miami and statewide,” said King. “There have been campaigns around paid sick leave for women and equality of pay, which align with the recommendations in the report. The issues for women of color add another layer of challenge and complexity. As we look to implement the recommendations, we have to take into account the particular challenges of women of color.”

For more information about the report, click here.

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