•Urgent need to tackle challenges, major concerns

By Doris Obinna

Being a man or a woman has a significant impact on health, as a result of both biological and gender-related differences. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the health of women and girls is of particular concern because, in many societies, they are disadvantaged by discrimination rooted in socio-cultural factors. For example, women and girls face increased vulnerability to HIV/AIDS.

Women’s health is an example of population health. It is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios and the ratio of maternal deaths due to non-communication diseases like hypertension and diabetes is on the increase says Director and Reproductive Health Coordinator, Lagos Ministry of Health, Dr Victoria Omoera.

Omoera, who spoke at a workshop on media advocacy organized by Centre for Communication and Social Impact (CCSI) in collaboration with Pathfinder Medical and Public Health Sustainable and Advocacy Initiative (PHSAI) in Lagos, said, women lives matter and that Nigeria’s female population, is approximately up 49.46 per cent of the population.

According to her, women need to be prioritised in government policies, especially in the health sector, for contributing about 50 per cent of the entire population. “Women need more empowerment because their needs surpass the gender role assigned to them.

Major health concerns

She said: “The major women’s health concerns include inadequate healthcare resources, reproductive health issues, heart disease, cancer and mental health issues.

She said: “The major women health concerns include: inadequate healthcare resources, worsened by poverty and gender inequality, limits women’s access to essential services and decision-making power concerning their health;

And top is, reproductive health issues that is; safe motherhood and contraceptives use), heart diseases, cancers (breast, cervical and ovarian) and mental health issues. These are the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in women.”

Also, Technical Director, CCSI, Oluyemi Abodunrin, who added that there’s need for intensified reporting on women’s health noted that there is need for effective reporting of women’s health issues.

“Government should partner journalists to facilitate effective reporting on women’s health issues. The government should consider journalists as partners in progress, while journalists should see the government as a veritable source for news information.”

Addressing challenges

Abodunrin said: “Combating stigma; sensitise reporting can help dismantle stigma surrounding women’s health issues, such as sexual health and reproductive, pregnancy/childbirth and mental health

“The media needs to represent the full spectrum of women’s experiences, reflecting on factors like socioeconomic background and age. Also, avoiding sensationalism and relying on credible sources is crucial for accurate and balanced reporting on complex health issues.”

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He decried lack of focus on diversity, context and solutions, limited access to accurate and current information, anchoring on sensationalism, stereotypes and ethical considerations.

Advancing women’s health

Senior Programme Advisor, Pathfinder International, Dr Sakina Bello, described the advocacy workshop as a bridging gap and way to tackle issues around antenatal, fertility and delivery issues.

According to her, advocacy is one of the ways to right the wrongs as well as actualize improved women’s health service. “There is a need to target a one year project on women in Lagos and Kano states for a better maternal and newborn health policy as well as funding for healthier women.

“Advocacy works wonders and as it is a critical part for this project, our media partners are here to really know what we are planning, and identify the key role in reporting women’s related health issues, including cancer and HPV amongst others.

“We hope that the media partners would help amplify the gaps in the healthcare sector, challenges experienced by health workers, ignorance, lack of awareness of government policies and problems, myths and misconception in women’s health.”


According to Abodunrin, women’s health issues may not be prioritized by news outlets, leading to limited coverage. “Sensationalized headlines and reporting that relies on stereotypes can create fear and misinformation.

“Journalists may not have access to qualified female health professionals for women’s health advocates for interviews. The male-dominated field of health journalism can lead to a gender bias in reporting.

“Again, media outlets may not have the budget or resources to dedicate to in-depth reporting on women’s health and reporting on sensitive issues like sexual health or reproductive rights might be restricted by cultural taboos.

“Also, as women become more vocal about their health needs, the demand for accurate information grows, creating a market for quality women’s health reporting. Digital platforms offer greater flexibility and reach for journalists to create engaging content on women’s health.

“Utilizing data visualization and compelling narratives can effectively communicate complex women’s health issues.”

He urged for collaboration with health organizations that can provide journalists with access to experts and research. “By understanding the barriers and facilitators, the media can create effective women’s health programming. Through sensitive reporting, diverse voices, and innovative storytelling, the media can empower women and advocate for a healthier future for all.”

Women’s health problems

Women’s health is a serious concern globally and women’s health matters. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS), health is influenced throughout the lifespan by many factors, including sex, gender, racial ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, and the environment.

“Women’s health is an essential part of the NIEHS research agenda. Researchers investigate environmental, lifestyle, and behavioral factors to prevent or reduce the chance of women developing health problems.”

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