|Women and Men Face Different Chronic Disease Risks|
PAHO/WHO and U.N. Women call for attention to gender at the upcoming U.N. summit on noncommunicable diseases
“Unlike the infectious diseases and reproductive complications that killed our ancestors, chronic noncommunicable diseases are predominantly behavior or lifestyle diseases,” said Dr. Marijke Velzeboer, senior advisor on gender, diversity and human rights at the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO). “These diseases and their risk factors are very much influenced by roles and expectations in society.”
Velzeboer’s remarks were part of a panel discussion on “Chronic, Noncommunicable Diseases: a Women’s Health Priority,” held last Friday in New York City to highlight the need to incorporate a gender perspective into the upcoming United Nations High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Diseases, scheduled as part of the U.N. General Assembly next September.
Velzeboer and other panelists noted that gender roles create different expectations and behaviors in men and women that affect chronic disease incidence and outcomes, including tobacco use, exercise and treatment-seeking. Other important differences include:
U.N. Women’s regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Gladys Acosta, noted that the right to health is clearly mandated in such human rights instruments as the Convention to End all Discrimination against Women.
Members of Friday’s panel recommended that the U.N. High Level Meeting on Non-Communicable Disease focus special attention on gender factors related to chronic disease risks, treatment and care. In addition, Prof. Hassell called on women and gender advocates to support the establishment of a civil society task force under the Office of the President of the U.N. General Assembly and urged the inclusion of women’s and gender organizations in the official national delegations to the upcoming chronic disease summit.
The panel was organized by PAHO/WHO, U.N. Women, and the U.N. missions of Mexico and Barbados. The audience included delegates from permanent U.N. missions, visiting government officials, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations who were gathered for the 55th Session of the U.N. Commission on the Status of Women.