Are we doing enough to stop violence against women? Find out more about the campaign against violence against women.

Stopping violence against women
Stopping violence against women

Current efforts to prevent violence against women and girls are inadequate, according to a new Series published in The Lancet.  Estimates suggest that globally, 1 in 3 women has experienced either physical or sexual violence from their partner, and that 7% of women will experience sexual assault by a non-partner at some point in their lives.

Yet, despite increased global attention to violence perpetrated against women and girls, and recent advances in knowledge about how to tackle these abuses (Paper 1, Paper 3), levels of violence against women – including intimate partner violence, rape, female genital mutilation, trafficking, and forced marriages – remain unacceptably high, with serious consequences for victims’ physical and mental health. Conflict and other humanitarian crises may exacerbate ongoing violence.

Between 100 and 140 million girls and women worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation (FGM), with more than 3 million girls at risk of the practice every year in Africa alone. Some 70 million girls worldwide have been married before their eighteenth birthday, many against their will (Paper 1, Paper 5).

Although many countries have made substantial progress towards criminalising violence against women and promoting gender equality, the Series authors argue that governments and donors need to commit sufficient financial resources to ensure their verbal commitments translate into real change. Even where laws are progressive, many women and girls still suffer discrimination, experience violence, and lack access to vital health and legal services.

Importantly, reviewing the latest evidence, the authors show that not enough is being done to prevent violence against women and girls from occurring in the first place (Paper 1).  Although resources have grown to support women and girls in the aftermath of violence (e.g., access to justice and emergency care), research suggests that actions to tackle gender inequity and other root causes of violence are needed to prevent all forms of abuse, and thereby reduce violence overall (Paper 4).

“Globally, one in three women will experience intimate partner and/or sexual violence by non-partners in their lifetime, which shows that more investment needs to be made in prevention. We definitely need to strengthen services for women experiencing violence, but to make a real difference in the lives of women and girls, we must work towards achieving gender equality and preventing violence before it even starts,”* explains Series co-lead Professor Charlotte Watts, founding Director of the Gender Violence and Health Centre at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK. “No magic wand will eliminate violence against women and girls. But evidence tells us that changes in attitudes and behaviours are possible, and can be achieved within less than a generation.”*

Ultimately, say the authors, working with both the perpetrators of violence (men and boys) and women and girls will be essential to achieve lasting change, by transforming deeply entrenched societal norms on gender relations and the insidious belief that women are inferior (Paper 3).

Violence is often seen as a social and criminal justice problem, and not as a clinical or public health issue, but the health system has a crucial part to play both in treating the consequences of violence, and in preventing it (Paper 2).

“Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,”* says Series co-lead Dr Claudia Garcia-Moreno, a physician at WHO, Geneva, who coordinates research and policy on violence against women.

“Health-care providers are often the first point of contact for women and girls experiencing violence,”* adds Dr Garcia-Moreno. “Early identification of women and children subjected to violence and a supportive and effective response can improve women’s lives and wellbeing, and help them to access vital services. Health-care providers can send a powerful message – that violence is not only a social problem, but a dangerous, unhealthy, and harmful practice – and they can champion prevention efforts in the community. The health community is missing important opportunities to integrate violence programming meaningfully into public health initiatives on HIV/AIDS, adolescent health, maternal health, and mental health.”*

The Series urges policy makers, health practitioners and donors worldwide to accelerate efforts to address violence against women and girls by taking five key actions (Paper 5).  First, governments must allocate necessary resources to address violence against women as a priority, recognising it as a barrier to health and development.

Second, they must change discriminatory structures (laws, policies, institutions) that perpetuate inequality between women and men and foster violence.

Third, they must invest in promoting equality, non-violent behaviours and non-stigmatising support for survivors.

Fourth, they must strengthen the role of health, security, education, justice, and other relevant sectors by creating and implementing policies for prevention and response across these sectors, and integrating violence prevention and response into training efforts.

Finally, they must support research and programming to learn what interventions are effective and how to turn evidence into action.

According to Series co-ordinator, Dr Cathy Zimmerman, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, UK, “We now have some promising findings to show what works to prevent violence. Our upcoming challenge is to expand this evidence on prevention and support responses to many more settings and forms of violence. Most importantly, we urgently need to turn this evidence into genuine action so that women and girls can live violence-free lives.”*

In a Comment accompanying the Series, former US President Jimmy Carter, founder of The Carter Center says, ” It is my hope that political and religious leaders will step forward and use their influence to communicate clearly that violence against women and girls must stop, that we are failing our societies, and that the time for leadership is now.”

The Series is published ahead of the 16 days of Activism against Gender Violence (Nov 25–Dec 10, 2014).

Gender and multiple sclerosis – please take our poll to help increase our understanding of gender and multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis awareness
Multiple sclerosis awareness
Okay I accept that this is a bit of an odd title for a blog post and poll but please bear with me!

As regular readers of this blog may know my background is in healthcare survey research. One of the areas I was involved in exploring was the lives of people with multiple sclerosis.

When one working with the MS community a good understanding of the landscape is vital. And a lot of this is based on statistical information. Often provided by government sources.

The problem was/is that this information is often at variance with the poll we conducted with people with MS. To gives you one such example is types of multiple sclerosis. It was often suggested that the number of people who had been diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) was in the region of 80% of the MS community. Our results were very different. RRMS never got more that 67% and in some cases lower that 60%. If you have any ideas as to why this should be please share in the comments box below.

A similar figure is given when we look at gender and multiple sclerosis. 80% is often given as the percentage of women who have multiple sclerosis. But I’m wondering if this is really true. The best way I have always found is to as PwMS themselves.

So we would like to invite you to take part in a short poll below which asks the question. “To help us with our understanding of multiple sclerosis could you please share your gender with us?”

Thanks very much in advance.

World Breastfeeding Week 2014 – What are the health benefits of breast feeding?

World Breastfeeding Week 2014
World Breastfeeding Week 2014
Running from 1st to 7th August is World Breastfeeding Week.

As a way of showing our support for this week we thought it would be useful to share with you just a few of the health benefits of breat feeding!

“By protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding we can all can contribute to each of the MDGs in a substantial way. Exclusive breastfeeding and adequate appropriate complementary feeding are key interventions for improving child survival, potentially reducing deaths among children under five by about 20%. Early and exclusive breastfeeding improves newborn care and reduces neonatal mortality, which contributes to the majority of infant deaths. Breastfeeding has been shown repeatedly to be the single most effective way to prevent infant death; it plays a major role in children’s health and development, and significantly benefits the health of mothers,” notes World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) Chairperson, Dr. Felicity Savage.

The UK’s National Health Service website gives some great bullet points as to why you should breast feed. They argue:-

1) Breast milk is the a natural food is actually designed for your baby.
2) It is a great way of protecting your baby from infections and diseases.
3) Both mother and baby receive health benefits from breast feeding.
4) Whenever you baby is hungry food is ready “on tap”.
5) Babies love it!
6) Creates a bond between mother and baby!

And, of course , it is free!

The menopause and chronic illness – What effect did the menopause and pre-menopause have on your main medical condition?

The menopause and chronic illness
The menopause and chronic illness
A few weeks ago we ran a short blog post on Multiple Sclerosis Heat Intolerance or Uthoff’s Phenomenon. While there has been some interest in the subject there were no comments on the blog until yesterday.

A lady kindly commented “Now add pre-menopause hot flashes, which in PREmenopuase means I get hot hours!! This sucks so bad. It only gets harder.”

The comment really hit home. What really is the impact of the menopause and pre-menopause on the symptoms of a chronic medical condition? Not just multiple sclerosis, of course, but also other related chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

Not just that what do women do to help with any exacerbations of their symptoms caused by the onset of menopause? This is the aim of this blog post.

Firstly would it be possible for you to take the poll below so we can assess the percentages of our readers who symptoms are changed (or not) by the meno pause.

Finally it would be great if you could share a bit more in the comments section below. You may wish to consuder the following questions:-

a) What is your main medical condition?
b) What is the impact of the menopause on that medical condition?
c) How did you deal with these new symptoms? How successful were these treatment?
d) What one bit of advice would you give to a women with your medical condition who have just started the menopause?

Many thanks in advance!

The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?

The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?
The Menopause. Have you ever treated the menopause with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or other treatment?

Over the last week or so my wife and I have started to watch the US TV series “House of Cards”.  If you have any interest in politics and the goings on of the US Congress I’d really recommend it.  But TV reviewing is not really part of the remit of this blog.  The reason I bring the subject up is that Claire Underwood (brilliantly played by Robin Wright) is portrayed as going through the menopause.

Now this really interested both of us.   While the menopause is a reality for so many women it does not seem to feature much in dramas and books.  It is almost seems to be intentionally ignored.  Which is odd for an event which almost all women will experience and  is referred to by some as the “change in life”.

This leads me to the point of this blog.  We are asking our readers to share their experiences of the menopause and how it has affected their lives.

In a nutshell the menopause is when a woman stops menstruating.  This means that she no longer produces eggs and thus ceases to be able to have children.  According to the UK’s NHS web site “The menopause is caused by a change in the balance of the body’s sex hormones.  In the lead up to the menopause (perimenopause) oestrogen levels decrease, this causes the ovaries to stop producing an egg each month (ovulation). Oestrogen is the female sex hormone that regulates a woman’s periods.”

In practice this can mean:-

  • Heart palpitations i.e. a change in heart rate
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Hot flushes
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Urinary tract infections

So how is the menopause treated? In fact for many women no treatment is necessary as symptoms can be very mild. But for those women who have stronger symptoms there are a number of treatments. Most notable is Hormone Replacement Therapy  or HRT. This is where the oestrogen produced by the women’s body is replaced by an artificial source. This could be in the form of a patch, tablet or even an implant.  Other women can be treated with a synthetic hormone called Tibolone which acts in a very similar fashion to HRT.

Some women have tried herbal treatments and vitamin supplements to deal with the symptoms of the menopause.

So over to you.  We are very interested in your views and experiences in and around the menopause.  Anything you wish to share will be of great interest to our other readers.  But it would be great if you could consider some of the following questions.

1)      Why does such a major event as the menopause seem to be brushed under the carpet by the mass media?

2)      What symptoms of the menopause have you had?

3)      How did the menopause affect your lifestyle?

4)      What treatments did you use and how successful were they?

5)      What one piece of advice would you give to a woman who has just started the menopause?

Thanks very much in advance.