Members of the medical fraternity, media professionals, social activists and representatives of the pharma industry come together to discuss and deliberate on measures to enhance women’s health and empower them to lead a better life
Women have come a long way. They have battled for their rights and proved their mettle, be it science, politics, sports, business, literature or art. Alas, their health, an important aspect, continues to be overlooked and neglected. Gender-based health disparities continue to exist and hamper women’s strides to progress.
Therefore, recognising the urgent need for renewed commitment towards women’s health, Express Healthcare and Bayer Zydus Pharma, came together to bring key stakeholders on a common platform to educate and inform about the advances in this sphere. At an event held at St Regis, Mumbai on February 20, 2018, eminent members of the medical fraternity, media professionals and representatives of pharma major, Bayer Zydus Pharma shared a stage to discuss and debate on the best strategies to inform and empower women to make the right health decisions.
Welcoming the esteemed guests and dignitaries, Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor, Express Healthcare set the context for further discussions and highlighted how vital it is to address inequities in women’s health. She urged the stakeholders to join hands to enable more funding, research and creation of effective policies and programmes to deal with women’s unique health needs. Stressing on the essentiality of making women’s health a major priority to ensure progress of the nation and the society, she also drew attention to the role of the media, as a watchdog, to help ensure higher visibility and understanding of this issue.
Next, Manoj Saxena, MD, Bayer Zydus Pharma took the stage to speak on Bayer’s work and offerings in women’s health. He elaborated on the company’s contributions towards innovative contraception and gynaecological therapies. He assured that Bayer has pledged its allegiance towards the cause of improving women’s health, worldwide and in India. He also informed that it is investing significantly in research and product development to meet heretofore unmet needs in this sphere.
Renowned Marathi film and theatre actress, Spruha Joshi was the Chief Guest at the event. As a modern woman who has donned several hats successfully, she gave a great perspective on the health needs of today’s women. She pointed out that despite being the custodians of their family’s health, women often tend to overlook their own well being which have severe and significant adverse effects later. Joshi also urged parents to empower their girl children with the right knowledge to help them make the right choices for their health and wellbeing throughout their life. She cited the example of her parents’ role in making her a woman capable of making her own choices when it comes to her health and thanked them for their support.
She was also very emphatic that mass media can play a very crucial part in generating awareness and sensitising the society towards women’s health and hygiene needs. Yet, in her opinion, mass media hasn’t been optimally utilised to achieve this objective. To prove her point, she highlighted that it has taken the Indian film fraternity over 100 years of existence to make a movie like Padman, the recently released Askhay Kumar starrer which addresses menstruation and issues related to it.
An interesting panel discussion followed Joshi’s insightful address. An eminent panel comprising Dr Rishma Pai, consultant gynaecologist at Lilavati Hospital, Jaslok Hospital, and Every Woman Clinic; Dr Nandita Palshetkar, infertility specialist associated with Lilavati Hospital and Fortis Group of Hospitals, Delhi; Spruha Joshi, Actress; Shubhalaxmi Patwardhan, Director, Niramaya Health Foundation and Manoj Saxena, MD, Bayer Zydus Pharma. The moderator, Viveka Roychowdhury, Editor, Express Healthcare, steered and veered the discussion through various pertinent aspects of women’s health.
The panelists touched upon women’s health problems ranging across all age groups across different strata of the society. Dr Pai spoke on how she encounters various young girls with health problems, often caused and aggravated due to ignorance about their bodily processes and sexual health. She lamented that despite advancements in various areas, our country continues to be mired in outdated traditions, beliefs and practices, be it about menstruation, pregnancy or contraception. Citing examples, she pointed out that women are shunned during days of menstruation, many believe in mahurats for C-section deliveries and often become victims of STDs and unplanned pregnancies as religion prevents them from using contraception. She opines that these obsolete notions and ideas are very detrimental to women’s well-being.
Dr Palshetkar threw light on the various complexities in women health issues arising in these rapidly changing times. She gave valuable insights on the different causes of infertility among women such as stressful lifestyles, diseases like endometriosis, delayed pregnancies due to late marriages etc. She also informed that with advancements in healthcare, now women have various ways and means to make their pregnancies safer. She also recommended options such as freezing of their eggs and preserving them for a later stage in life, if women need to delay child-bearing. Dr Palshetkar also advocated timely and appropriate counselling for women of all ages to empower them to lead a healthy life.
Joshi recounted some harrowing real life experiences of dealing with abysmal sanitary conditions and unhygienic toilets in the course of her career as an actress. She emphasised that hygiene and sanitation are major aspects of women’s health and urgent attention is needed towards these areas.
Patwardhan, as a social activist, drew a very realistic picture of the deplorable conditions of women living in the slums and the various health hazards faced by them. She pointed out that the health issues faced by these women have different causes from those faced by women living in better socio-economic conditions. Therefore, the strategies and solutions to deal with them also need to be different. She said that when basic amenities are lacking, it is hard to educate and enforce other learnings. First and foremost, in the lower strata of the society, it is important to meet the basic needs of women such as daily nutrition, safe drinking water and clean toilets. She also spoke on the importance of imparting sex education to young girls in these areas as teen pregnancies, poor sexual health, unsafe abortions, high risk of sexual infections etc. are also challenges that need to be tackled. Patwardhan also informed about the various initiatives undertaken by the Niramaya Foundation to deal with these issues.
Saxena, as the only male member on the panel, spoke on how essential it is to sensitise men in the society to the health needs of women. He opined that men too will have to uphold and champion the cause of women’s health as it is directly proportional to a family’s health. All the panelists were in complete accordance with these views. The moderator, adding her insights to these statements, said that behind every empowered woman there is an enlightened man.
As a representative of Bayer Zydus Pharma, Saxena reiterated once again that his company is fully empathetic to women’s health requirements and is in the pursuit of discovering and tailoring solutions to suit individual needs of women across all ages, geographies and socio-economic conditions.
The panelists were also unanimous in their opinion that sex education, timely counselling at educational institutes and workplaces on women’s health, encouraging women to go for regular health check-ups, instilling and adopting a scientific approach towards these issues are some very crucial measures to bring about significant improvements in this area.
They collectively promised to do their bit to ensure better health conditions for women and advised everyone to do the same by passing on the right message and spreading knowledge to ensure better outcomes.
The discussion ended on a hopeful note that in times to come, women will truly have the freedom and knowledge to take the right decisions for their good health and well being.