Women's contribution to healthcare amounts to around US$3 trillion annually, but nearly half of this is unpaid and unrecognized, according to a new report.
The women's distinctive contribution to society is under-recognized and undervalued - economically, socially, politically, and culturally. The report underlines that women are important providers as much as recipients of healthcare, and that globally, their changing needs in both of these respects are not being met.
"It's time to acknowledge women's comprehensive health needs throughout their lives, and their productive contributions to healthcare and society as a whole, as well as their similarly important roles as mothers and homemakers," said Ana Langer, head of the Women and Health Initiative at Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, who co-led the commission. "We urge the global health community and policymakers worldwide to embrace a more holistic - and realistic - understanding of women and health," Langer said.
The commission, which brought together leading thinkers, heads of programs, and activists from around the world, examines the complex links between biological, economic and social factors in improving women's health throughout their lives.
"Women are undervalued and unsupported by the systems in which they work, and this problem is exacerbated by inequitable access to healthcare experienced by too many women worldwide - particularly those in the most vulnerable groups," Langer said.
Gender equality and empowerment must be central to the policies and interventions used to improve healthcare and to human, social and economic development, especially in the post-2015 era, the authors conclude.
The report was published in The Lancet.