Hesperian Health Guides

Chapter 1: Women's Health Is a Community Issue

HealthWiki > Where Women Have No Doctor > Chapter 1: Women's Health Is a Community Issue

In this chapter:

four women discussing the information on a sheet of paper

What Is "Women's Health"?

When someone is healthy, they have the energy and strength to do their daily work, to fulfill their many roles in the family and community, and to build satisfying relationships with others. In other words, health affects every area of our lives. Yet for women, their health care has often meant little more than care during pregnancy and birth. These services are important, but they address women’s needs only as people having babies.

This book offers a different view of women’s health. First, we believe that everyone has a right to complete health care, throughout their entire life. A woman’s health care should help her in all areas of life—not just in having babies. Also we believe that health is affected not just by the way our bodies work, but also by the social, cultural, and economic conditions in which we live.

Good health is more than the absence of disease. Good health means complete well-being, including the body, mind, and spirit.

a woman and girl standing in a doorway while a man rides a tractor nearby

While men’s health is also affected by these factors, women as a group are treated differently from men. Women usually have less power and fewer resources, and lower status in the family and community than men. This gender inequality means that:

  • more women than men live in poverty.
  • more women than men are denied the education, skills, and jobs they need to support themselves.
  • more women than men have little or no access to the health information and services they need, often because decisions about their health care are made by men.

Since gender inequality is one of the main underlying (root) causes of women’s poor health, improving women’s health is not just about treating their immediate health problems. It also requires changing the conditions of our lives so everyone has power over things that affect our health.

When this happens, everyone—each individual, their family, and their community— benefits. Healthy people have a better chance to fulfill all of their potential. Plus, they have healthier babies, are better able to care for their families, and can contribute more to their community. For all these reasons, women's health is a community issue.

This page was updated:22 Jan 2024