Euroasian Women’s Forum puts women’s health high on the agenda

WHO/Gunta Lazdane

Almost 800 participants from 80 countries, representing all parts of the world, discussed ways to further improve women's quality of life during the first Euroasian Women's Forum that took place on 24–25 September 2015 in St Petersburg, Russian Federation. The Forum's theme was "Towards Peace, Harmony and Social Well-Being".

The Forum opened with a video address by Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. During the panel discussion on the "Role of Women in Building a Global Strategy for Health", Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General, encouraged all parliamentarians and representatives of international and national nongovernmental organizations to join efforts in implementing the renewed United Nations strategy on women's, children's and adolescent's health 2016–2030.

Challenges still remain in women's health including:

  • up to 40 times difference in maternal mortality rate
  • unmet needs for family planning, which can be as high as 23% in some countries
  • low levels of breastfeeding
  • high levels of overweight.

Dr Gunta Lazdane, Programme Manager, Sexual and Reproductive Health at WHO/Europe, presented the objectives of Health 2020 and plans of the WHO European Region Member States to develop a European women's health strategy. Examples of the life-course approach and long-term investment in women and the next generation were presented and discussed.

This included the role of education on healthy eating in schools, studied in the Russian Federation. A model example of prevention and early management of diabetes has resulted in concrete suggestions of changing legislation that will be discussed in October 2015 by the Duma of the Russian Federation. The neglected possibilities to act during adolescent years were discussed by a primary health care specialist from Perm, Russian Federation. Each discussant suggested a concrete recommendation that will be incorporated in the outcome report of the Forum.

The outcome resolution of the Forum recommends "international interparliamentary associations to mainstream legislative support of legal, economic and social empowerment of women, improvement of the mechanisms for the protection of family, mother and child, ensuring affordable and quality medical and social care" (1). WHO is ready to assist countries to make this a reality with action plans at regional and national levels, support in improving the quality of preventive actions, screening and quality of health care, and the newly released report which investigates the main health issues for women in the Region, and provides a basis for prioritizing actions for all sectors of governments and societies.