Over the years, we’ve learned that driving meaningful change for women and girls around the world means cooperating with diverse partners who bring special expertise to one of the world’s most important challenges. We’ve learned that no one organization can make progress on its own. And we’ve learned that cross-sector cooperation can be especially powerful in identifying relevant solutions that deliver real-world impact. With these learnings in mind, we joined Merck Consumer Health in February 2016 at their global headquarters in Darmstadt, Germany for an event that convened an international panel of academics, public health specialists, NGO leaders and business experts in an important discussion on how best to close the gap between the future of women’s health and wellbeing and the current reality in countries around the world.
The topic of debate was a newly released white paper, authored by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), “Women’s Health and Well-Being: Evolving Definitions and Practices.” As the global discussion around public health shifts from a focus on treatment and survival towards one that includes physical, emotional and psychological well-being, stakeholders are looking to better understand the concerns of women globally. The report uncovers data-driven insights on women’s health and wellbeing, with a focus on France, Germany, Brazil, Mexico and India. Seven key findings in particular will help inform global perceptions of well-being, and will aid in developing locally relevant solutions in the field. The takeaways show:
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- The primary factor in defining wellbeing remains “physical health.”
- “Feeling healthy and physically fit” best describes “feeling well” for 74% of women. Only 3% of respondents said “feeling well” means “feeling optimistic about the future of myself and my family.”
- However, this definition of wellbeing often varies according personal circumstances.
- At lower income levels everywhere, having the basics – such as food and security – counts the most. In developed countries for women with an annual income above $75,000, managing stress is often a factor.
- There is generally a low participation rate in government programmes aimed at improving women’s wellbeing.
- Where government wellbeing programmes are available, there is a mismatch between women’s priorities and those of governments.
- Women responded that they “actively manage” their wellbeing, but the report’s evidence shows that this is not often the case.
- The focus is often on avoiding bad habits rather than making active lifestyle changes such as exercise or healthy eating.
- Of those that do, higher-income groups are more likely to take an active approach to health management.
- Women in developing countries are more active information seekers than women in developed countries.
- 75% of women surveyed say the purpose of the information search is general information about healthy living and preventive measures, not self-diagnosis.
Discussing these seven insights, event attendees played an important role in sparking debate and raising awareness for women and girls. Panel participants stressed the importance of gathering data, understanding perceptions and focusing on locally relevant solutions in both emerging and developed countries. Empowering women to take an active role in their health and wellbeing calls for an integrated approach, and progress promises to help women deliver better lives for themselves and their families.