On the international day of action for women’s health 2022, health and non-health sectors from all parts of the world have joined efforts to commemorate the International Day of Action for Women’s Health, which is also called the International Women’s Health Day. This article brings to light information about the history of the day, highlights of AHB’s involvement in women’s health, and a summary of disease burdens on women with a primary objective of showing where action is still needed.
About the day
The International Day of Action for Women’s Health was launched in 1987 by Latin American and Caribbean Women’s Health Network (LACWHN) and Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR). It is celebrated on 28th May every year and the main objective is to raise awareness on issues affecting women’s health and wellbeing, especially Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
Highlight of disease burden on women’s reproductive health

The status of women’s health in the world is better than it was a decade ago thanks to developments in policies, national health plans, research, technology, and costing of services. The average life expectancy (LE) and healthy life expectancy (HALE) of women has been higher than that of men in the world for decades. According to World Health Statistics, in 2019, the LE and HALE for men was 70.9 years and 62.5 years, respectively while that of women was 75.9 years and 64.9 years, respectively. Africa recorded the lowest LE and HALE of all the WHO regions as 64.5 years and 56.0 years. This, however, does not mean that women’s health is at its best possible state. The statistics of health burdens below are testaments to it.


Cancer is a huge burden on women. The leading causes of death are breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, and endometrial cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, breast cancer was the common cancer in 2020 globally totalling up to 2,261,419 cases and accounting for 25.8% of new cases. Cervical cancer was the fourth globally at 604,127 new cases that accounted for 6.9% of all the new cases and the second most common in Kenya.

Maternal mortality ratio

From the World Health Statistics report mentioned above, about 295,000 women died in 2017 globally due to causes related to or aggravated by pregnancy and childbirth. In the same year, the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) was 211 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. Sub-Saharan Africa had the highest burden of 196,000 maternal deaths and an MMR of 542. Further study on the risk of death due to a maternal-related factors in low- and middle-income countries compared to high-income countries showed that a woman in LMIC is 33 times more likely to die than another one from a high-income country. Another study focused on Africa showed that each year, about 17 million out of the 43 million women who give birth in Africa do so away from a health facility, which contributes to birth complications and sometimes deaths.

Fertility and modern contraception

According to a report published by United Nations, women’s fertility rates have decreased over the years globally, with evident differences in regions and countries. In 2019, the global fertility level was 2.5 live births per woman and 4.6 in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). 33 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa had a fertility level above 4 live births. Between 2010 and 2019, Kenya was ranked the seventh to have the highest decline in fertility rates.
A study conducted by Guttmacher Institute in 2019 revealed that Africa had 139 million women of reproductive age who wanted to avoid pregnancy. Out of this, 58 million did not have access to modern family planning methods and about 8.3 million have abortions in unsafe conditions. World Health Statistics showed that in 2021, the number of women of reproductive age who were satisfied with modern methods of family planning was 76.8%. Africa had the lowest coverage of 57.1%. Although the use of modern contraception is low in SSA.

Anaemia in women
In 2019, the World Health Statistics indicated that the global prevalence of anaemia was 29.9% amongst women who were in their reproductive ages, 36.5% amongst pregnant women, and 29.6% amongst non-pregnant women. The prevalence of the condition varies in WHO regions and countries.
Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Intimate partner violence is a topic that is shied from because of the complexities of interpretations. IPV causes a range of sexual and reproductive health challenges such as sexually transmitted infections, unintended and unwanted pregnancies, unsafe abortion, pregnancy complications, sexual dysfunction, and others. While IPV can happen to any gender, globally, women bear the greatest burden.
From a report on global health statistics, in 2018, about one in every three women of reproductive age reported to have experienced a physical or sexual form of intimate partner violence at least once in their lifetime from the age of 15. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey reported that about 39% of ever-married women encounter violence from their intimate partners.

Actions taken to improve women’s health
Despite the high disease burden in different aspects of reproductive health, several actions have been (and are still being) taken at global, African, and Kenyan levels to lower the statistics. They include but are not limited to:
  • Education for girls and women about sexual and reproductive health rights
  • Advocacy on sexual and reproductive health
  • Empowerment of reproductive health workers
  • Increase of healthcare delivery centres and modern contraception methods
  • Increased efforts in screening and treatment of cervical cancer
  • Research about women’s health and development of services and products that can improve the quality of services
  • Public-private partnerships

AHB’s involvement in promoting women’s health

Stakeholder engagement: AHB engages with key stakeholders from public, private, non-governmental organizations, from all health categories through roundtables, webinars, and annual symposiums, to enhance discussions, collaborations, and seek solutions on how to promote women’s health in different categories. An example is the seventh edition of the Africa Health Business Symposium hosted on 24th February 2022. The theme of the event was, Africa Women’s Health: The Role of the Private Sector in Advancing Women’s Health in Africa.
Business intelligence: AHB conducts in-depth research and provides insights useful for engagement in different aspects of women’s health.
Technical advisory: AHB’s senior advisors provide technical advice to organizations involved in the advancement of women’s health for development of solutions, partnerships, innovation acceleration, capacity building, and others.

The highlight of women’s disease burden is proof that there is a lot that needs to be done. Despite this being the official day of action for women’s health, it is important for all to note that one day is not enough to discuss all the matters ailing women’s health in different countries or to find the most effective solutions. Looking at the results from different actions, it is safe to say that when these actions are intensified and made more need-specific, then the status of women’s health can improve tremendously. All players in the health sector should therefore continue increasing their efforts of improving the status of women’s health any time in the year.