Women throughout the world struggle with a significant burden of issues that result in high levels of morbidity and mortality. Biological, social, political, and economic factors combine to put women, especially those in the developing world, at risk for disease and harm in many phases of their life.
Addressing the health status of women requires an approach that takes into account this wide area of determinants and norms. Current perspectives on women’s health, however, are still too often narrowly framed as responses to problems categorized according to particular female reproductive or sexual roles (such as prenatal care, maternal mortality, breast-feeding and other child-rearing behaviors, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV and AIDS) at the expense of understanding the health issues of women as arising from constraints of poverty, social status, legal barriers, cultural norms, and economic and educational opportunity.
These constraints play out within particular political and economic structures but uniformly are reflected as broadly defined differentials in health and health status – in terms of quality of life, mental health, protection from violence, management of chronic illness, and support in disability and old age.
We at the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology are collaborating with the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Harvard Initiative for Global Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and the US Department of Defense on several initiatives around improving the lives and well-being of women world-wide.