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Women's health refers to a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, as experienced by women, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. Some of these relate to structures such as female genitalia and breasts or to conditions caused by hormones specific to, or most notable in, females (e.g. menstruation, birth control, maternal health, child birth, menopause and breast cancer). Some conditions that affect both men and women, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, also manifest differently in women. Women's health issues also include medical situations in which women face problems not directly related to their biology, such as gender-differentiated access to medical treatment and other socioeconomic factors. Worldwide, women and girls are at greater risk of HIV/AIDS – a phenomenon associated with unsafe sexual activity that is often unconsensual.
Women's health is an issue which has been taken up by many feminists, especially where reproductive health is concerned. Women's health is positioned within a wider body of knowledge cited by, amongst others, the World Health Organisation, which places importance on gender as a social determinant of health.
Some health and medical research advocates, particularly the Society for Women's Health Research in the United States, define women's health more broadly than issues specific to human female anatomy to include areas where biological sex differences between women and men exist. Traditionally, women have been underrepresented in clinical trials. However, research has demonstrated significant biological differences between the sexes in rates of susceptibility, symptoms and response to treatment in many major areas of health, including heart disease and some cancers.
The social view of health combined with the acknowledgement that gender is a social determinant of health inform women's health service delivery in countries around the world. Women's health is affected not just by their biology, but also by their social conditions, such as poverty, employment, and family responsibilities. Women's health services such as Leichhardt Women's Community Health Centre which was established in 1974 and was the first women's health centre established in Australia is an example of women's health approach to service delivery.
Issues in reproductive health
One example of this is the Cartwright Inquiry in New Zealand, in which research by two feminist journalists revealed that women with cervical abnormalities were not receiving treatment, as part of an experiment. The women were not told of the abnormalities and several later died. In many countries feminists have campaigned for the right to legal and safe abortion, arguing that it is a health rather than a moral issue. In countries where contraception is difficult to access, campaigns for readily available contraception are conducted on the same lines. Conversely, there have also been campaigns against potentially dangerous forms of contraception such as defective IUDs.
Other medical issues
Taking proton pump inhibitors (like Prevacid, Nexium, or Prilosec), drugs that decrease stomach acid, are a risk for bone fractures if taken for two or more years. This happens because of a decreased absorption of calcium in the stomach.
- Healthcare inequality
- Social determinants of health
- Health disparities
- Women and smoking
- Women in medicine
- Men's Health
- Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition
- Women's health in India
- Our Bodies, Ourselves
- Women's Health Issues
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