Pakistan's health policy: Appropriateness and relevance to women's health needs
The interface between national health policy and women's health needs is complex in developing countries like Pakistan. This paper aims to assess if Pakistan's national health policy 2001 is relevant and appropriate to women's health needs. Through review of existing data on women, a profile of women's health needs was developed which was transformed into framework of analysis. This framework indicates that Pakistani women's health needs are determined by gender disparities in health and health-related sectors. Comparison of national health policy with women's health needs framework reveals that although policy focuses on women's health through prioritization of gender equity, it is however addressed as an isolated theme without acknowledging the vital role gender inequalities in health and health-related sectors play in defining women's health needs. Moreover, gender equity is translated as provision of reproductive health services to married mothers, ignoring various critical overarching issues of women's life such as sexual abuse, violence, induced abortion, etc. Health systems strengthening strategies are though suggested but these fails to recognize main obstacles of utilization of healthcare services by women including non-availability of female healthcare providers and gender-based obstacles to healthcare utilization such as illiteracy, lack of empowerment to make decisions related to health, etc. In order to be relevant and appropriate to women's health needs the policy should: (1) use gender equity in health and health-related sectors as an approach to develop a healthy policy (2) expand the focus from reproductive health to life cycle approach to address all issues around women's life (3) strengthen health systems through creation of gender equity among all cadres of health providers (4) tailoring health interventions to counter gender-based obstacles to utilization of healthcare services and (5) dissemination interventions for behavior change.
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