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Earlier this month, 6,000 decision-makers, implementers, researchers, advocates, and private sector representatives from 169 countries descended upon Vancouver, Canada for the 2019 Women Deliver Conference – four days of learning, sharing, awareness-raising, and partnership-building to accelerate progress toward global sustainable development for women and girls.
Here are some key health-related insights:
Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)
NCDs account for 41 million deaths annually. They cause two in three deaths among women annually, and the burden of mortality and morbidity is expected to increase, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Member organizations of the Taskforce on Women and Non-Communicable Diseases – including powerhouse organizations such as Women Deliver and the George Institute for Global Health – advocate for a life course approach to addressing NCDs to improve the quality of health care women receive throughout their lives and, thus, improve global inequity.
“In high-income countries, the cancer journey is a hopeful one. In low-income countries, the cancer journey may feel like a hopeless one,” stated Princess Dina Mired of Jordan, President of the Union for International Cancer Control. For example, 90% of women who die annually from cervical cancer are from low- and middle-income countries.
Tobacco control efforts have been largely gender-blind to date. Dr. Veronica Magar, who leads the Gender, Equity and Human Rights Mainstreaming Team at the World Health Organization, indicated that the NCD research and advocacy community needs to step up and advocate putting a gendered approach on the agenda.
When asked about the Canadian government’s stance on e-cigarettes, Dr. Miga Chultem, Manager at the Public Health Agency of Canada, insisted such products should be carefully studied to understand the health benefits, but should not be advertised to be “made cool” for youth uptake.
Women, Stigma, and Harm Reduction
During a panel on perinatal substance use, participants explored how stigma ostracizes people to the margins of society and reduces our understanding of people to only the stigmatized identifiers applied to their lives. A harm reduction approach to substance use, and thereby smoking, is about bodily autonomy and changing the narrative from stigmatization to providing education so people can make informed choices.
How we can help end this stigma:
The Private Sector and Global Health Supply Chains
Engaging and influencing the private sector was a common theme throughout the conference. Women’s rights and needs will not be met without private sector reform and a transformation of current business models.
Women make up 37% of the global supply chain work force but only 14% of leadership. Women are critical to shaping the product journey from developer to consumer in order to break down barriers related to local markets, social norms, policies, and supply chains.
The private sector can promote greater autonomy and options, and position and price products so that they are accessible to women. But how? “Listen to what women want and don’t make assumptions. Just asking women is revolutionary,” explained Michelle Milford Morse, the UN Foundation’s Vice President for Girls and Women Strategy.
Carolyn Hart, Vice President of the International Division at John Snow Inc., and Leila Varkey, Senior Advisor of Reproductive Health at the Centre for Catalyzing Change, emphasized that scaling progress requires political will and a commitment to allocating resources. Both the government and private sector should move away from a scarcity mindset in order to accelerate success.
According to Peter Sands, Executive Director, Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, “There is suspicion, mistrust, and a sheer lack of understanding of the private sector.” Governments, civil society, and actors in the health system can learn from the private sector, particularly companies thriving in the supply chain revolution and delivering fast-moving consumer goods, to resolve inequities and address pain points in the customer journey.
Julia Gillard, Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership and Former Prime Minister of Australia, echoed that sentiment. “We should never be afraid of widening partnerships and moderating the tensions between them – the more actors, the greater the possibility for change.”
In a paper @MarewaGlover co-authored, she explores how #tobaccocontrol initiatives ignore #indigenous communities. On #IndigenousPeoplesDay, read about the groups that have disproportionately high smoking rates and the potential solutions. https://bit.ly/3gvtYYI
Many governments in #LatinAmerica (including #Mexico, #Argentina, & #Brazil) have passed restrictive policies on safer #nicotine products. @VIDAdotNEWS hosted a panel discussion on the unintended consequences of strict regulations in Latin America.
Live right now: "Why Bans Are Not Best for Latin America"
Kevin McGirr, a professor with Community Health Systems at @UCSFNurse, joins Derek Yach (@swimdaily) on the Global Health Perspectives podcast. Kevin and Derek discuss the link between #mentalhealth conditions and #nicotine addiction. https://bit.ly/3gxAIFu
Overall, global #TobaccoControl research, policies, and interventions largely neglect issues specific to women. In a new paper, @a_solowoman analyzes how #gender-blind execution of the #FCTC negatively impacts #womenshealth. https://bit.ly/39YqyeA
The Dubrovnik Consultation brought together top economists and legal experts from various geographies to identify areas for #tobaccoharmreduction #regulation. The expert contributions that support public health goals are summarized here: https://bit.ly/3i7QiZ2
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