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Women & Health in India

  1. 1. Preeti Dwivedi, Assistant Professor Mahila Mahavidyalaya (P.G.) College, Kidwai Nagar, Kanpur
  2. 2.  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)
  3. 3.  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 economic gain.
  4. 4.  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.
  5. 5.  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 than men.
  6. 6.  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 Science, IIPS,1995).
  7. 7.  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 personnel.  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.
  8. 8.  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).
  9. 9.  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, 2001).
  10. 10. 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 questions.
  11. 11.  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).
  12. 12.  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.
  13. 13.  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.
  14. 14.  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.
  15. 15.  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 miscarriage etc.
  16. 16.  Different bone problems like osteoporosis, arthritis, backache were reported by 12% of the rural respondents in against to 18% of the urban respondents.  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 respondents.
  17. 17. 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. 18.  18% of the rural and 9% of the urban respondents were depending upon home remedies.  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 practitioners.
  19. 19.  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.
  20. 20. 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.
  21. 21.  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.
  22. 22.  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 stage.  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.
  23. 23.  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.
  24. 24.  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.
  25. 25.  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 – inequality.
  26. 26.  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 childhood.
  27. 27.  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.
  28. 28.  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.
  29. 29.  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 most.
  30. 30.  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.
  31. 31.  Right to health is a basic human right. unfortunately women in India do not access such basic right.  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 health.
  32. 32.  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.
  33. 33.  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.
  34. 34.  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 transformed.  In this respect media, social activists, NGOs, different government agencies can bring a massive awareness towards gender – equality and empowered them socially and economically.
  35. 35.  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.
  36. 36. THANK YOU

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