Uniquely linking women’s rights and healthy aging in China, Japan, and the United Kingdom, the report will be featured at Reykjavík Global Forum—Women Leaders
New York, New York (November 9, 2020) – Today, the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) released Empowering Women for Healthy Aging: Key Policy Actions to Address Health Challenges Across the Life Course, a report calling for new policy conversations and actions to spur economic growth and social equity by addressing women’s health that also advances women’s rights.
Women’s access to quality healthcare and their economic participation are inextricably linked. As women are indispensable leaders in the economy, their communities, and their families, pursuing good health at each stage of the life course must be a target of policymakers and healthcare systems. Doing so can empower women to live long, healthy lives, from youth through old age, and enable their full participation in their economies.
The aging demographic shift – long lives as a matter of course to 100 and more old than young across populations – has brought new urgency to empowering women through their health. The report highlights UK, Japan, and China because of their high proportions of older people; 19%, 28%, and 12% of their populations are over 65, respectively. This population aging and the parallel trend of longevity make healthcare decisions made in childbearing years critically important for a woman’s long-term health and well-being – and is the linchpin for society-wide economic growth and financial wellness. Therefore, women need better information and education, better screening and tools for prevention, and increased efforts to understand the risks of chronic severe diseases including chronic inflammatory and chronic metabolic disorders, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease, which disproportionately impact women.
The new report comes during a milestone year. 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration on Women’s Rights, the 10th anniversary of UN Women’s foundation, and the commencement of the WHO Decade of Healthy Ageing, central to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“As our definition of health evolves from the mere absence of disease to functional ability, each life stage must be evaluated,” said Michael W. Hodin, PhD, CEO of GCOA. “The 20th century’s gift of longevity brings about the imperative to address women’s health more seriously – before, during, and after childbearing years. A focus on healthy mothers, with an impact on healthy babies, will help enable a healthier aging, healthier economies, and healthier societies, with implications for us all – women and men, young and old, low income and high income, rural and urban.”
Women not only power the economy and provide leadership in business and their communities but are also largely responsible for eldercare and childcare. In the UK, the estimated value of women’s caregiving efforts, which are informal and too often unrecognized, is £75 billion, while in Japan 70% and in China 60% of caregivers are women. A parallel trend shows that many chronic severe diseases in women are left undertreated, and pregnancy complications and maternal duties often further exacerbate health issues.
The report spotlights osteoporosis as an example, which too often goes undetected and under-addressed leaving many at risk for fragility fractures. In the UK, 50-year-old women face a 53% lifetime risk of a fragility fracture, whereas men face a 21% risk. Women, thereby, account for the majority of the £2 billion in related healthcare and hospitalization costs. Similar trends have been found in both Japan and China.
Women are not only more likely to suffer a fragility fracture, but also the impact of pregnancy and maternal duties on bone-density is under-researched. Further, many women are not properly educated about ways to mitigate risk and increase preventive action, while additionally, national screening programs fall short.
“Healthy women are the cornerstones of healthy families, healthy communities, and healthy economies,” said Ninie Wang, Founder and CEO, Pinetree Care Group in China. “For women in particular, prevention and screening for conditions such as fragility fractures are critical for ensuring early treatment, mitigating healthcare costs, and avoiding frailty. Identifying osteoporosis early, addressing fractures rapidly after they occur, and monitoring, treating and rehabilitating a patient ongoing after the first fracture are effective ways to manage disease and ensure functional ability, which means healthier, more active, and happier lives for women and those they care for.”
The report offers recommendations for policymakers and healthcare systems:
- Support research to better understand women’s lifelong health needs and risks, in childbearing years and as they age, including by increasing participation in research and clinical trials.
- Provide educational resources for women of childbearing age to make healthier choices throughout the life course, supporting prevention and promotion of healthy aging.
- Train healthcare providers and educate caregivers on delivery of integrated, person-centered care for women throughout their lives.
- Implement national screening and prevention programs for conditions particularly affecting and/or under-diagnosed in aging women, which today are often ignored until an acute event.
- Integrate global women’s rights with healthy and active aging – prioritizing women’s health and ability in each of the Decade of Healthy Ageing focus areas.
A recognition that women of childbearing age and older women have unique health concerns with unique consequences is the first step in ensuring women’s rights to proper access to healthcare and maximum societal and economic contribution.
“Healthy and active aging should be a centerpiece for healthcare systems, policymakers, and the private sector everywhere if we, as a society, are to realize the dividends that come with our longevity,” said Veronique Toully, Vice President and Global Head of Sustainability, UCB. “Women – who typically live longer than men – especially need the tools, access, and information to make health decisions at all stages of life because those decisions may very well impact health status in later life. As a healthcare system issue, an economic issue, and a rights issue, empowering women must be at the top of the agenda for leaders around the world.”
To that end, GCOA will be discussing the report with global and national leaders during a Leaders Talk on “Women’s Health, Ageing and Inequalities on HER Life Pathway,” at the Reykjavík Global Forum—Women Leaders on November 10. The session is hosted by UCB. The Forum is annually co-hosted by Women Political Leaders (WPL) and the Government and Parliament of Iceland, aiming to provide a space for women to share, discuss, and promote ideas.
Speakers during this session include:
- Veronique Toully, Vice President and Global Head of Sustainability, UCB
- Michael W. Hodin, CEO, Global Coalition on Aging
- Yumiko Murakami, Head of OECD Tokyo Centre
- Ninie Wang, Founder and CEO, Pinetree Care Group
- Nicola Blackwood, Chair Genomics England
- John Beard, Former Director of Ageing and Life Course Department, WHO
- Marie Teil, Global Head, WoCBA, UCB
For more information and to access the report, click here.
Melissa Gong Mitchell
Global Coalition on Aging
+1 646 404 1149
About the Global Coalition on Aging
The Global Coalition on Aging aims to reshape how global leaders approach and prepare for the 21st century’s profound shift in population aging. GCOA uniquely brings together global corporations across industry sectors with common strategic interests in aging populations, a comprehensive and systemic understanding of aging, and an optimistic view of its impact. Through research, public policy analysis, advocacy, and strategic communications, GCOA is advancing innovative solutions and working to ensure global aging is a path to health, productivity and economic growth. For more information, visit www.globalcoalitiononaging.com