Staff Reporter

Thiruvananthapuram: Public health experts have called for the creation of more evidence-based research data on gender determinants of health so that more innovative and women-focussed health programmes could be introduced in the State.

Health care initiatives in the area of women’s health have till date been confined to issues of reproductive health and family planning as there is little evidence on the prevalence of lifestyle diseases, cardiovascular problems or cancers among women.

This lack of evidence has been coming in the way of formulating women-oriented health policies in the State, Manju Nair, faculty, Achutha Menon Centre for Health Science Studies (AMCHSS), said.

Dr. Manju Nair was speaking on ‘Women’s Health: Matters of Policy and Practice,’ a session organised as part of the national seminar on ‘Women and Health: New Paradigms’ here on Monday. The three-day seminar is being organised by Kerala University’s Centre for Women’s Studies and the Association of Indian Universities.

A chunk of women from poor socio-economic strata continue to depend on primary health care institutions where women often do not have enough basic facilities such as good toilets, seating facilities or adequate privacy in clinical examination rooms.

Health policies formulated with a gender perspective and awareness on issues of women’s rights and dignity would certainly make a difference to this state of affairs, she said.

Unless women’s groups come up with evidence on women’s health issues and ask questions whether the State’s services are addressing these issues, one cannot expect gender-sensitive health policies, she pointed out.

V.K. Ramankutty, Professor, AMCHSS, said that discussions on formulating a health policy for the State has been a process that has been going on for the past 20 years, with no results at all.

Health policy-making in Kerala has always been a process influenced more by political factors than reason. The health indicators of Kerala still present a rosy picture but is no indicator of the State’s health standards. Having no concrete health policy seems to be a deliberate strategy adopted by successive governments to avoid responsibility, he added. The State’s budgetary allocation for health had been at a consistent low and rather than strengthening the public health system, much of the funds is utilised for upgrading tertiary care facilities and on staff salaries, Women’s health issues continue to be equated to reproductive health issues in the State. he pointed out.

The session was chaired by Mohanan Nair, Director, Kerala State Institute of Health and Family Welfare.