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Washington, DC, March 11, 2009 (PAHO) — Two outstanding women's health projects—one that combats domestic violence and another that promotes culturally appropriate care for indigenous women—won a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) competition titled "Best Practices for Integrating Gender in Health" today, in an event honoring International Women's Day 2009.

PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses presented $5,000 awards to the winning initiatives from Brazil and Bolivia, chosen from among 44 applicants from 19 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Lucia Cavalcanti de Alburquerque Williams
PAHO Director Dr. Mirta Roses and Lucia Cavalcanti de Alburquerque Williams (Photos by David Spitz/PAHO)
The Brazil project in São Carlos, "Empowering families in combating domestic violence," helped poor women, especially Afro-descendants and migrants, find ways to reduce family violence. Health, police, municipal, school and university groups all collaborated in working with women to offer transport, shelter, and interventions with men to change violent behavior. "It is possible to have a world free of violence, but partnerships and male intervention are priorities. We have to also involve the schools in detecting and preventing child abuse, which is often linked to abuse of women," said the project's director, Lucia Cavalcanti de Alburquerque Williams, of the Laboratory for Analysis of Violence Prevention, Federal University of São Carlos. As a result of the initiative, 800 participants reported changes in their family and partner relationships.

Francy Marcela Venegas Arzabe
Dr. Mirta Roses and Francy Marcela Venegas Arzabe
Bolivia's project, "Primary Health Care with a Gender Focus" (Star Health Services), brought health providers together with urban women of Aymara origin to develop culturally acceptable health services and increase women's participation in disease treatment and prevention. The project's director, Francy Marcela Venegas Arzabe, said a study showed the need to confront health problems at the local level with cultural sensitivity to improve the credibility and quality of health services.  The project, by the Health Service of La Paz and the Ministry of Health and Sports, showed a significant increase in coverage.

The International Women's Day event was opened by PAHO Director Dr. Roses, who noted the huge variations in mortality between indigenous women and others in some countries. She cited innovative experiences that improved health coverage among women and ethnic groups in a number of countries. "Health should reach all men and women, and culture and gender approaches count in achieving this," she said.

Dr. Wanda Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Director of the Office on Women's Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, delivered the keynote address. "Women have been health advocates for more than 200 years in this country, and women will not sit silently as health reform is discussed Our voices must be heard because there will be no solutions that effectively address these issues without involving us," she said.

PAHO, founded in 1902, works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of their peoples. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Last Updated on Thursday, 12 March 2009 02:11

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