Health is the state of complete physical,
mental and spiritual well – being and not
merely an absence of disease or infirmity.
(WHO, 1978) (Medical Model of Health)
Health refers to proper functioning of the
body and the mind, as well as, the capacity to
participate in social activities performing the
roles expected by society. (Social Model of
Health is an important factor that contribute
to human well – being and economic growth.
On the other hand presently women in India
experience a multitude of health problems,
which ultimately affect the aggregate
economic output and contribute to barrier of
Nutritional deprivation has major
consequence of different ailments. Only small
proportion of women in India are consuming
a balanced diet.
Deficient intakes of essential nutrients such
as Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Zinc, Folic acid,
Vit. A, Vit B6, Vit. C are found more in large
proportion to young women than young Men
in a study in India.
Malnutrition is a major consequence of
anemia. 50 – 90% of all pregnant women in
India suffer from anemia. Sever anemia
accounts for 20% of all maternal deaths in
India. (World Bank, 1996)
The prevalence of Osteoporosis,
Osteoarthritis, backache are the common
health problems among elderly women in
India and its prevalence is more in women
Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis are silently
progressing metabolic bone disease is widely
prevalent in India and is a common cause of
morbidity and mortality in women. Low calcium
diet and lack of health awareness are two major
causes behind this health problem.
India has high Maternal mortality ratio. According
to National Family Health Survey (NFHS)
conducted in 1992 -93, in the four years
preceding the survey 37% of all the pregnant
women in India received no prenatal care during
pregnancies (International Institute of Population
Through NFHS Survey (1992-93) it was also
found that nearly three – quarters of all births
take place at home and two – thirds of all
births were not attended by trained medical
Differential treatment of girls and boys in
terms of feeding practices, utilization of
household resources and access to health –
care are some factors responsible for higher
female morbidity and mortality in India.
Boys are breast – fed longer than girls, 25.3
months versus, 23.6 months average (IIPS, 1995).
Boys who are ill are more likely to be taken for
medical treatment than a girls in India.
Domestic Violence is widespread, deeply
ingrained and has serious impacts on women’s
health and well – being. An average of 125
women face domestic violence everyday in 2000
in India and it stood at 160 in 2005 (National
Crime Record Bureau, NCRB, 2005).
Battered women are subjected to twice the
risk of miscarriage and four times the risk of
having a baby that is below average weight.
Domestic violence also accounts for a
sizeable portion of maternal deaths (WHO,
The present study is empirical in nature. Through the present
study an attempt has been made to investigate the problems
of health among Indian women, its causes and consequences.
Common health practices adopted by these women are also
explored in this study. The study is comparative and
compared the health problems of rural and urban Indian
women. In this sequence , 100 women from an urban area
known as Kanpur city and 100 women from a rural area
known as Ramabai Nagar of Uttar Pradesh, India were
selected purposively as a sample. All the women selected in
the sample were suffering from some health problems and
presently have at least one child. Interview schedule was used
for data collection having both open and closed ended
Age of about half of the respondents (48% of
the rural and 51% of the urban women)
having health problems were more than 50
years, while age of 35.5% of the respondents
(34% of the rural and 37% of the urban
women) were in between 35 – 50 years.
Educational status of the respondent’s shows
that most of them were either illiterate (47%
of the rural and 30% of the urban
respondents) or primary educated (20% of the
rural and 28% of the urban women).
Most of them belong to the families having
Lower Economic Class (49% of the rural and
35% of the urban women) or Lower Middle
Economic Class (27% of the rural and 25% of
the urban women).
66% of the rural and 42% of the urban
women was living in the joint families.
Numbers of the children given birth by a
woman and gap between two births also
affect the health of a woman.
Data of the present study show that presently
55% of the rural and 33% of the urban women
had four or more than four children.
Only 11% of the rural and 18% of the urban
respondents presently has one child.
Out of those respondents presently have at
least two children (89% of the rural and 82%
of the urban), 29.5% of them (35% of the rural
and 24% of the urban women) informed that
there was approximately one to two years
gap between last two births.
On the other hand 19% of the rural and 12%
of the urban respondents reported that they
gave next birth within one year.
Anemia was accessed as most common health
problem suffered by a total of 24% (30% of the
rural and 18% of the urban women) of the
respondents than different respiratory problems
like Asthma, T.B. etc. reported by 20% (18% of
the rural, 22% of the urban women) of them.
24% of the rural and 12% of the urban
respondents informed that they had reproductive
health problems like vaginal infections, excessive
bleeding, no bleeding, painful bleeding and
Different bone problems like osteoporosis,
arthritis, backache were reported by 12% of
the rural respondents in against to 18% of the
Breast Cancer (8% of the rural & 6% of the
urban women), Heart diseases (6% of the rural
& 10% of the urban women), Depression (2%
of the rural & 8% of the urban women) and
some others health problems (6% of the
urban women) were also reported by the
When the respondents were asked to report
about the different sources of seeking help
after their health problems?
28% of the rural and 14% of the urban
respondents informed that they were ignoring
their health problems and thus did not
approach to any health centers till now.
On the other hand 22% of the rural and 15%
of the urban respondents were seeking help
from untrained practitioners.
18% of the rural and 9% of the urban
respondents were depending upon home
Only 22% of the rural and 38% of the urban
women approached to the government
hospital for seeking help. On the other hand
10% of the rural and 24 % of the urban
respondents take help from private
Out of the total respondents 86% of the rural
and 72% of the urban respondents informed
that they ignore their ailment at the early
stage. They approach to the medical centers
at the later stage of their ailment.
Why the respondents ignore their health
problems at the early stage (86% of the rural
and 72% of the urban respondents)
30.4% of the respondents (30.2% rural, 30.6%
urban) informed that they ignore their health
problems as they prefer their other family
members first during their sickness and
approaching them to the health centers.
22.1% of the rural and 25% of the urban
respondents seek help from the health
centers at the later stage as their health
problems are ignored by their family
members especially by their husbands. They
further informed that in most of the times
they are not accompanied by their family
members to the hospital.
Economic dependence (18.6% of the rural &
30.6% of the urban women), carelessness (10.5%
of the rural & 15.3% of the urban women) and
long distance of the hospitals from their home
(11.6% of the rural, 4.2% of the urban women),
are also access as different causes behind the
ignorance of their health problems at the early
Living in joint family is also found as constraint
in access to the medical centers at the early stage
in case of 7% of the rural respondents.
Only 22% of the rural and 32% of the urban
respondents informed that they went for
routine check-ups and take their medicines
regularly during pregnancy.
Place of delivery of 24% of the respondents
(36% of the rural and 12% of the urban) was
not safe as their delivery take place at home.
16% of the rural and 8% of the urban
respondents informed that their delivery was
not attended by trained workers.
46% of the rural and 21% of the urban
respondents reported that males eat first in their
families and they are typically the last to eat with
other female members in their family.
Only 20% of the rural and 28% of the urban
respondents informed that they drink milk daily
or eat fruit regularly.
Only 27% of the rural and 35% of the urban
respondents reported that they eat properly two
times daily and took proper diet in their meal.
Gender is one of the social determinant,
which play a major role in the health
outcomes of women in India.
India is considered as one of the worst
countries in the world in terms of gender –
discrimination. According to United Nations
Development programme’s report on
Human Development India was ranked as
132 out of 187 countries in terms of gender
Gender – inequality is an output of patriarchal
family structure found in India. Women are
confine to domestic duties and refrain from
decision making process while male avail all
economic and social powers in such
patriarchal form of family.
In such society different values, norms,
beliefs and behavior all are internalize
through socialization among girls since their
In the patriarchal family through socialization
females are to internalize the concept of
dependency, obedience, powerless and shy
nature. Thus In such society women give
preference to other members of their family first
with respect to intake of nutritious food and
approaching them to the health centers during
their sickness. Thus most of the women ignore
their health problem at the early stage and
approach only after the advancement of their
ailment in most of the cases.
Duration of breast feeding, immunization,
food – habits, intake of nutritious food items,
reporting of illness, rates of admission to the
hospitals, access to the health services and to
take medical treatment all are concerned with
patriarchy, different socialization and gender
– inequality in India.
Due to gender – inequality females are more
malnourished than men in India and resulting
to the poor health outcomes. Malnutrition
among women starts from infancy and
continues throughout their lifetime. In the
patriarchal society like India women and girls
are typically the last to eat in the family and if
there is not enough to eat then women suffer
Women in villages often become a victim of
more number of health problems than the
urban one. Inadequate medical facilities in
rural areas, long distance of health centers
from their home and poor resources obtain
for treatment from private medical
practitioners are some major barriers for
availing health care for rural women.
Right to health is a basic human right.
unfortunately women in India do not access such
Historically discrimination of women on the
gender – basis is one of the major causes behind
poor health outcomes of them. International
Covenant on Economics, Social and Cultural
Rights (ICESCR) emphasized the responsibilities
of the state to protect the right of all groups and
individuals to the enjoyment of the highest
attainable standard of physical and mental
Government of India has been making several
efforts in developing health and population
policies. However, there are several obstacles in
its implementation due to poverty, illiteracy and
gender discrimination in India.
There is a need for necessary steps for more
community participation in various development
programmes of government as it may be helpful
to remove the poverty and improve the literacy
rate among the females, which may be positively
affect the health outcomes of them.
Health education also has to be strengthened
through department of health and ICDS as it
may be significantly bring awareness and
behavioral change for better health and
nutritional practices to improve the health
status of women in India.
Problem of health is deep rooted in the socio
– cultural practices. Socio – cultural norm
which is responsible for gender – inequality
and different socialization process should be
In this respect media, social activists, NGOs,
different government agencies can bring a
massive awareness towards gender – equality
and empowered them socially and
Thus there is need to promote gender –
equality by the international development
organizations as gender – equity positively
associated with better health outcomes of
women as well as economic development.
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