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In the last decade, there have been major improvements in health education for women. Despite this, we still have a long way to go. Women in developing countries do have a greater struggle in terms of acquiring adequate education about their bodies, but they are not alone. Even in the U.S., health education for women and girls is lacking, leading to common misconceptions and potentially dangerous consequences.

Developing Countries

The basic health care women often take for granted is often not available to women in developing countries. For example, maternal mortality, female genital cutting and high rates of cervical cancer are just a few issues. Additionally, girls are often forced to miss school (or drop out entirely) when they get their period. This is either from shame, lack of feminine hygiene products, or a combination of the two. The catch-22 is that the education they’re missing is the key to finding a solution for the issue of sex-based health disparities.

Women’s Health in the U.S.

The FDA doesn’t require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients of feminine hygiene products, although women have been pushing for more transparency since the 1980s. Recently, the movement has become more mainstream, and increasing numbers of women have begun questioning what exactly is in their tampons and pads. Some major companies have released lists of some ingredients, but this doesn’t mean the list includes every single ingredient found in the products. This has caused some women to turn to more natural solutions.

Research and Diagnosis

Worldwide, there are still misconceptions about signs and symptoms for various ailments. This is because the research was initially done with men, so the symptoms men experience are considered standard. For example, conditions like sleep apnea, ADHD, autism and cardiovascular disease often go undiagnosed in women because the symptoms don’t present the same way in women as they do in men. In 1993, the National Institutes of Health mandated that women and minorities be included in government-funded health research. Today, there are more women participating in health research than ever before, but there are still years of biased research in the archives.

Countries Closing the Gap

Some countries are more progressive than others in terms of equality for men and women. According to the World Economic Forum, Iceland, France and Nicaragua are the first three countries poised to close the gender gap. This will affect education, work and political representation, along with ensuring women’s health is on equal ground.

Countries like Yemen and Pakistan are still way behind the curve, and the U.S. is somewhere in the middle of the pack, but it’s promising that women’s health is beginning to be prioritized globally. Compared to where we were 50+ years ago, our world is definitely moving in the right direction.