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Health disparities for rural women should be addressed

WEDNESDAY LIFE
By Kizito Lubano | September 7th 2016

Women’s health is an integral part of the overall health system of any country.

It is a fact that women are the ones who take care of the family’s nutrition and children’s good health to a great extent depends on their mother’s health status.

For the next three weeks, I will be leading a team to review and document health issues affecting women and children in a particular rural county.

As I go about this work, the sights, sounds and smiles remind me of my very own rural upbringing. The resilience amid difficulties speaks to the true human spirit, in its uncontaminated form.

As I work among these rural folk, I once again observe that rural women do indeed experience poorer health and have less access to health care compared to their urban counterparts.

Top of these health problems is malaria, which is not exclusively reserved for rural women, but it is they that are most exposed to mosquito bites which abound in different parts of or country.

Yet, so involved are they in their daily tasks that they often do not even feel these bites and when they do, negligence and/or lack of information prevents them from taking antimalarial drugs. Only when fever or tenacious headaches occur do they decide to take a few pills. But often, they opt to drink medicinal herbal teas said to be “diuretic.”

Next on the list is malnutrition, with anaemia as its most common outcome. Malnutrition is caused by ignorance and/or lack of information on what food should be eaten. Then there are dietary customs and taboos deeply anchored in some families, which deprive women of nutrients required by their bodies, especially after childbirth. Then there is lack of time and financial difficulties.

The problems of malaria and malnutrition affect men and children as well as women, but others are specific to women.

Closely spaced pregnancies, which used to be rare in villages, are now increasingly frequent in rural areas. And since planned parenthood is a foreign concept in many rural areas, most women bear a great many children — eight and above.

The well-being of rural communities affects the well-being of those who reside in towns and cities because of rural-urban connections through food, drinking water, infectious disease, extreme environmental events, recreation, and for many, retirement residence.

Health care professionals should be aware of this issue and advocate for reducing health disparities in rural women.

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