Dr. Aung Soe (a) Aung Kyaw Moe
Retired State Medical Superintendent
An early morning scenario of an extended family living in an average household: grandma Phwa Sein is reciting prayers in the front room: mother Daw Moe is busy preparing breakfast for the family: eldest daughter Ma Saw is in hurry to fill tiffin-boxes in time for her school going brother and sister, while her younger sister Ma Latt is in rush to select thick files before heading to an INGO where she works. Other male and female family members are also getting prepared for their respective day-long activities.
This happy home scenario in Myanmar coincides with the International Women’s Day on 8 March. The UN adopted International Women’s Day creates awareness all over the world for welfare of woman, accounting fairness, gender equity, development, political, social economical achievements, safety, protection from violence and so forth.
Observing to vicinity, in families and communities, in political, social and economical fields, we may find some positive gains in women’s welfare. Lady politicians, government officials, parliament members, doctors, engineers, architectures, professors, CEOs, INGO, NGO executives are not scarce.
On the other face of the coin, unfortunately, violence and sexual abuse prevails, including the shocking news of child rape! Around the globe, one young women was gang-raped to death, another committed suicide out of a sense of shame that should have attached to perpetuators, while young teens were shot at short range for daring to seek education, as described in UNSG’s statement.
If we look at women around us, who cherish in our families and communities, we may note a statistical likelihood that many of them have suffered violence in their lifetime. Many have comforted a sister, daughter, aunt or friend, sharing their anger and grief following a violence. One should convert his or her outrage into action and declare to prosecute crime, against weaker sex, determine never to allow women to be subjected to punishments for the abuses they have suffered. In homes and worksites, in war zones and placid countries, we should renew our pledge to combat this global health menace. Such social, economical, psychological and health issues as teen-age pregnancies, in adequate ante-natal care, criminal abortions, pre-terms, malnutrition, unhygienic confinements, post-partem hemorrhages, improper post-natal care, incomplete puerperal attention, insufficient child cares, post-traumatic psychological distress and disease (PTSD) are prevalent end-results. It should be the duty of every human being to contribute changing the mind set of evil people who allow crimes and violence to continue. A special promise should be made to women in conflict situations, where sexual offence too often becomes a tool of war aimed at humiliating the enemy by destroyed their dignity and prestige.
In New York, at the Commission on the Statue of Women, world’s largest-ever UN assembly was held in 2013 on ending violence against women. Many governments, groups and individuals contributed to this gathering and campaign. The United Nations system is advancing its UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, which is based on the simple but powerful premise that all women and girls have a fundamental human right to live free of violence.
On this auspicious day of International Women’s Day, let me discuss some health-related issues of women, viz, health awareness, life expectancy, disease prevention, life-style, occurrence of communicable as well as non-communicable diseases such as cancer, etc.
Health consciousness is one of the key factors for protection from health challenges including cancers, which in turn add more years to life. Eminent Hollywood film actress Angelina Jolie who devoted herself in social welfare deeds in some under developed countries, such as raising poor children and orphans and HIV victims is an example of health conscious woman. Realizing that she is prone to get cancer of her reproductive organs which first originates in breast, due to presence of a cancer-promoting enzyme, and being ‘positive’ familial history, she daringly underwent a surgical operation and sacrificed her both breasts, which, of course, accounts for her unique feminine beauty, attraction and artistic performances. Thanks to modern scientific technology, artificial prostheses completely masked her from disfiguration and maintained the curves. Although over forty years of ages, she stood first as the most beautiful woman on this earth, over passing the youngsters, in a recent world-wide referendum among film fans, conducted by Hollywood film industries.
Please don’t run away with the idea that all cancer suspected woman should undergo bilateral mastectomy. Instead, women should be careful of environment, diet and life style to prevent cancer, up to some extent. At least 30 percent of all cancers are preventable, it is learnt. To quit smoking, stop alcohol, avoid betel quads during pregnancy and lactation are advised for women’s health as well as children’s well-being.
Vaccinations for Hepatitis B, examination of Pap smear and vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus are recommended. In Asia, in every four minutes one women dies due to cervical cancer, statistics reveal. Regular cervical screening in accordance with guidelines should continue alongside vaccination. Intra muscular Anti Tetanus Toxoid beyond first tri-mester of pregnancy three times, at two weeks intervals is a schedule for prevention of maternal as well as neonatal tetanus.
Early detection of breast cancer is crucial. Every adult and adolescent woman should learn and practice breast-self-examination on daily basis before and during showers.
Women should avoid eating for two during pregnancy. Women who “eat for two” when they are pregnant are increasing the chances of problems giving birth and lifelong health issues for their children, according to a New Zealand-led international study.
The study found that 74 percent of women pregnant for the first time, gained excessive amounts of weight during pregnancy, quadrupling the chance of having an excessively large child at birth and increasing the number of cesarean deliveries in labour.
“Big babies become big children and big adults later on,” said Professor Lesley McCowan, of the University of Auckland, who led the study.
“Babies born large are at risk of traumatic birth, and cesarean delivery increases the chance of complications for the mother,” said Mcwan in a statement.
“These adverse outcomes can be modified by achieving optimal weight gain in pregnancy. This should be an important focus of ante-natal care.”
Weight gain during pregnancy was also an important cause of obesity in women. “Most women who gain too much weight are not able to lose that weight after pregnancy and it puts those women on a trajectory to becoming obese.” She said.
“Excessive weight gain during pregnancy will not only exacerbate existing obesity, but will contribute to later obesity in women who start pregnancy with a normal body mass index but have excessive weight gain in pregnancy,” she said.
Myanmar is struggling hard to get out of Least Developed Countries list by multispectral strategies and expecting some gains. Life expectancy gap is growing between rich and poor world women, the World Health Organization reveals. Worldwide life expectancy for women at 50 has improved according to scientific data, but the gap between poor and rich countries is growing and would worsen.
A WHO study, one of the first to analyze the causes of death of older women, found that in wealthier countries deaths from non communicable diseases has fallen dramatically in recent decades, especially from cancers of the stomach, colon, breast and cervix. Women over 50 in low and middle income countries are also living longer, but chronic ailments, including diabetes, kill them at an earlier age than their counterparts, it said. The gap in life expectancy between such women in rich and poor countries is growing, said the WHO study, part of an issue of the WHO’s monthly bulletin devoted to women’s health.
More women can expect to live longer and not just survive child birth and childhood. But what WHO found is that improvement is much stronger in the rich world than in the poor world.
On this auspicious International Women’s Day awareness should be created to invest in health to build a safer, happier and healthier Myanmar.