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Gender norms affect health-seeking behaviours

Published : Sunday, 10 March, 2019 at 12:00 AM  Count : 165

Gender norms affect health-seeking behaviours

Gender norms affect health-seeking behaviours

Bangladesh has achieved impressive progress in gender equality in the past 20 years. It has achieved incredible progress in female education. It has really progressed a lot in terms of creating more opportunities for women which in return contributed to the national healthcare services. It was well identified that, gender norms affect health-seeking behaviours and the use of healthcare services. Women and men often have different attitudes towards medical care (including preventative care), and women may not be able to access healthcare if the services are not seen as culturally appropriate. Furthermore, women may not have the resources to pay for healthcare services and, in some cases, require the permission of a male relative.

However, the arrival of digital services in the healthcare sector may affect how women are exposed to quality healthcare or how they choose to lead it. As of January 2019, approximately 92 million people in Bangladesh are exposed to the internet. Even though there is no information available on the female population reaping the benefits of the internet, an assumption of even 30 percent covers a lot of ground. Women can easily login to international sites such as WebMd, Medscape or local platforms like Tonic, and access quality healthcare immediately. The opportunities are now vaster and easier to access. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the government of Bangladesh was proactively focusing on improving the healthcare scenario of the country. A series of awareness advertisements were aired on national television, focused on educating women about nutrition, vaccination, pregnancy and neonatology.

The strategy seems to have worked well. Since the 1990s, polio has been virtually extinct, child mortality rate has decreased by more than 200 percent, neonatal mortality rate has decreased by approximately 71 per cent, and so on. Other factors also contributed to these positive numbers. But there was one common approach in each initiative. Each and almost every initiative was targeted towards women. Historically, the women of this delta have been the source of care for the family and in charge of the household. They have decided on how the children will be raised, what the family will eat, and how the family healthcare will be managed.

Women have also played a key role in bringing about changes in communities. Not only through the female front-line health workers deployed to reach every household but also through those women who were empowered to take control of their own health and reproduction. Female health workers, recruited to deliver door-to-door family planning services, are behind a rapid fall in fertility from seven births per woman in 1971 to 2.3 in 2010. Contraceptive use also rose from 10 percent in 1970 to around 62 percent to the present day, contributing to the speed and magnitude of improvements in mortality rates.

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