Multi-sectoral action on health critical for women in poor urban areas

Published on 3 October 2016

This week key leaders from academia, politics, civil society, and the private sector will come together at the World Health Summit to address the most pressing health-related challenges on the planet. One of this year’s central topics is ‘Women, Empowerment and Health’ – an area in which IDS has a rich history of work. Drawing from recent research on this theme, IDS researchers urge Summit participants and decision-makers globally to take a broader approach to address the social, structural and economic determinants of health, and to ensure community involvement in interventions with genuine gender inclusivity.

Improving access to health for women and girls in low-income urban settlements

Greater multisectoral action is one of four key recommendations made in an IDS policy briefing (pdf) that draws from research by IDS and partners in India, South Africa and Kenya on the issues of the health of women and girls living in low-income urban settlements.

The world is becoming increasingly urbanised. Over one third of urban dwellers now reside in low-income urban settlements, where living conditions are often inadequate and there exist multiple barriers to access to health services for women and girls.

Little is known about what approaches to improving the health of women and girls are currently working in these settings, and less about efforts to tackle emerging and significant health conditions such as injury, violence, cardiovascular disease and neuropsychiatric disorders.

To help address this knowledge gap, from 2012-2016, IDS and partner researchers undertook six case studies and a thematic review examining women’s and girls’ access to health in low-income urban settlements.

Findings from the research stressed that ill-health is just one of the challenges poor women and girls face in low-income urban settlements, alongside many other social, economic and structural determinants of health. In order to adequately address the health challenges of women and girls in these urban spaces, it is essential to look beyond the health sector and adopt policy responses that are multi-sectoral and take a broader approach to addressing the structural determinants of ill-health. Policymakers, governments, and donors need to ensure that health policies and programmes are seen in conjunction with other sectoral concerns, including water and sanitation, urban planning, gender equality, and nutrition, among others.

Detailed policy findings and recommendations are on our website Interactions on the Empowerment of Women and Girls.

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Carol Smithyes

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