Over the years, women's health needs have been addressed through maternal and child health programmes, focusing primarily on narrow aspect of their lives. With new knowledge and changing perspectives, women's health is now being viewed holistically - as a continuum of care that starts before birth and progresses cumulatively through childhood and adolescence to adulthood and old age. This lifecycle approach extends beyond women's reproductive role to encompass women's health at every stage and in every aspect of their lives. Through this approach, other health issues affecting women that were previously overlooked, or thought not to exist, have become more apparent.

Henceforth, the determinants and responses to women's health profile must consider all factors -and not only biological ones- such as the economic, social and cultural factors that affect their status, as well as gender relations between women and men. There is therefore a need for a new paradigm shift. This shift in perspectives will bring into focus the gender dimension in women's health.

However, the lifecycle and gender approaches to women's health rely heavily on the use of reliable information and data disaggregated by sex and other important variables such as age and environmental settings. Yet, this information is often lacking or difficult to access. A Regional analysis based on country profiles on women, health and human development represents a major achievement in filling these information gaps.

The ‘Women's Health Profile in the African Region-Trends and Opportunities ' should provide useful inputs for policy and programme development to ensure that gender issues and women's health concerns are addressed across all WHO health programmes. It should also lead to more research resulting in effective interventions for improving women's health and accessing quality health care.

This programme will further improve our understanding of women's health and its underlying determinants. It should also facilitate advocacy efforts to raise awareness of the broad spectrum of health problems faced by women throughout their lives.
Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, in May 2007 at the World Health Assembly committed the Organisation to be judged by the improvement made to the health of people in Africa in general, and the health of women in particular. Henceforth, Dr Chan made women's health a priority into her new mandate. Dr Chan stressed that these would be the key indicators of WHO performance.

It is therefore important to initially assess and know the situation of the health of women in the African Region using relevant indicators at the beginning in order to evaluate and measure the progress made later.

Related Links:

  1. Gender, Women and Health - WHO/HQ
  2. Making Pregnancy Safer - WHO/HQ
  3. Sexual and Reproductive Health - WHO/HQ
  4. UNFPA - United Nations Population Fund
  5. UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund
  6. Averting Maternal Death and Disability - AMDD
  7. African Union
  8. USAID - United States Agency for International Development
  9. Vision 2010
  10. West African Health Organization