Women's health has been described as "a patchwork quilt with gaps". Although many of the issues around women's health relate to their reproductive health, including maternal and child health, genital health and breast health, and endocrine (hormonal) health, including menstruation, birth control and menopause, a broader understanding of women's health to include all aspects of the health of women has been urged, replacing "Women's Health" with "The Health of Women". The WHO considers that an undue emphasis on reproductive health has been a major barrier to ensuring access to good quality health care for all women. Conditions that affect both men and women, such as cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, also manifest differently in women. Women's health issues also include medical situations in which women face problems not directly related to their biology, such as gender-differentiated access to medical treatment and other socioeconomic factors. Women's health is of particular concern due to widespread discrimination against women in the world, leaving them disadvantaged.
Internationally, many United Nations agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF maintain specific programs on women's health, or maternal, sexual and reproductive health. In addition the United Nations global goals address many issues related to women's health, both directly and indirectly. These include the 2000 Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and their successor, the Sustainable Development Goals adopted in September 2015, following the report on progress towards the MDGs (The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015). For instance the eight MDG goals, eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rates, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development, all impact on women's health, as do all seventeen SDG goals, in addition to the specific SDG5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
While defended by those cultures in which it constitutes a tradition, FGC is opposed by many medical and cultural organizations on the grounds that it is unnecessary and harmful. Short term health effects may include hemorrhage, infection, sepsis, and even result in death, while long term effects include dyspareunia, dysmenorrhea, vaginitis and cystitis. In addition FGC leads to complications with pregnancy, labor and delivery. Reversal (defibulation) by skilled personnel may be required to open the scarred tissue. Amongst those opposing the practice are local grassroots groups, and national and international organisations including WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and Amnesty International. Legislative efforts to ban FGC have rarely been successful and the preferred approach is education and empowerment and the provision of information about the adverse health effects as well the human rights aspects.
A person's caloric requirement depends on his body size and exercise level. Sedentary people of both genders will keep their weight stable by taking in about 13 calories per pound of body weight each day. Moderate physical activity boosts this requirement to 16 calories a pound, and vigorous exercise calls for about 18 calories a pound. On average, a moderately active 125-pound woman needs 2,000 calories a day; a 175-pound guy with a similar exercise pattern needs 2,800 calories. And like women, men will lose weight only if they burn more calories than they take in.
Interventions resulting in public infrastructure changes were found to be less effective than household-based interventions; however, both are important aspects of improved health outcomes for women (128, 130). Public water infrastructure requires regular maintenance and periodic replacement and water from these sources is often contaminated (130). However, even public water points that provide good-quality water have had minimal impacts on health outcomes (136). One review estimated that water-source interventions were associated with a 27% reduction in diarrhea risk at all ages, whereas household-based interventions were associated with a 43% reduction (128). This could be associated with bias and confounding, as measuring WASH outcomes is not a blinded process (128). The differential impact could also be related to practice. As compared with public water sources, home water connections were associated with greater odds of handwashing and fecal waste disposal (136). As a significant portion of diarrheal disease is a result of person-to-person transmission and poor hygiene, interventions that improve domestic hygiene behaviors can have a significant impact (136). Behavior change communication and resource provision, e.g., soap and point-of-use water treatment resources, were also important and sustainable aspects of WASH interventions (131, 137).
A well-balanced diet, comprised of a variety of foods, adequately meets women’s needs for vitamins, minerals and energy. For good health, women need to pay special attention to calcium, iron and folate (folic acid) intake. A healthy diet also should minimize the intake of fat and sugar. Diets high in saturated or trans fat can promote high levels of blood cholesterol and increase risk for heart disease. A diet that includes high sugar provides empty calories, or calories that do not provide any nutritional value and often times replace more nutritious food selections.
Nutrition-sensitive approaches are difficult to link to women's nutritional status (5, 102). This is due to limited measurement of benefits to program beneficiaries, families, households, and communities, limited timeframes to evaluate long-term impact, logistical and political realities that make implementation difficult, and different priorities of different stakeholders in multisectoral programs (102). Many nutrition-sensitive approaches, as will be described, thus focus on more distal measures of impact (e.g., coverage, knowledge) and not more proximal measures of women's nutritional status (e.g., BMI, anemia status, etc.).