At the crossroads: transforming health systems to address women’s health across the life course

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa); Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health


In 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a report titled Women and health: today’s evidence, tomorrow’s agenda. The report summarized the evidence surrounding the health-related issues affecting girls and women throughout their life course1 and signalled the need for innovative strategies and new health service delivery models. Since then, other global initiatives, including the Women Deliver 2013 conference, the United Nations Commission on Information and Accountability for Women’s and Children’s Health, Family Planning 2020 and the call of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in support of child and maternal health, have kept the world focused on women’s health issues, particularly maternal mortality and universal access to reproductive health. Yet these initiatives do not address all the health problems that women are facing in the 21st century as a result of the epidemiological and demographic transitions. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, the years of life lost (YLLs) on account of conditions addressed under the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) declined by 2.0% per year between 1990 and 2010, but those attributable to conditions not targeted under the MDGs increased by 0.8% per year. If these trends continue, by 2015 more than two thirds of all YLLs will be caused by conditions not included in the MDG framework. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) already represent 54% of the world’s burden of disability-adjusted life years; injuries represent an additional 11%. This is one reason that WHO, together with key global partners, conceived this theme issue on women’s health beyond reproduction. Our intention is to underscore the changing nature of the health problems confronting women and to highlight policies and strategies that low- and middle-income countries can implement.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Bull World Health Organ