In a study by the McKinsey Health Institute in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF), the report titled “Closing the women’s health gap: A $1 trillion opportunity to improve lives and economies” sheds light on the profound impact of gender disparities in healthcare on both individual well-being and global economic prosperity. The study, focused on addressing the health gap between men and women, reveals startling statistics that demand urgent attention and action.
Key Findings: Unraveling the Women’s Health Gap
The report brings to light the alarming fact that while women tend to live longer than men, they spend 25 percent more of their lives grappling with poor health. This health disparity translates into a staggering 75 million years of life lost annually due to illnesses or premature death among women. The study identifies key areas contributing to the women’s health gap:
- Health Conditions Affecting Both Genders: 95 percent of the health burden on women is attributed to conditions affecting both men and women, such as sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, and endometriosis.
- Prevalence of Conditions in Women: 56 percent of the health burden on women arises from conditions that are either more prevalent or manifest differently in women.
The Case of India: A $22 Billion Opportunity
In the context of India, the study highlights that closing the gender gap in healthcare could lead to a substantial economic boost. The report estimates that India’s GDP could rise by at least $22 billion by addressing the health disparities between men and women. The top health conditions contributing to this potential GDP impact include premenstrual syndrome, gynecological diseases, migraine, depressive disorders, and anxiety disorders.
Global Root Causes: Science, Care Delivery, Investment, and Data
The report identifies four primary global root causes contributing to the women’s health gap:
- Science: Historically, the study of human biology has predominantly focused on the male body, leading to less effective treatments for women. Over 50 percent of interventions with sex-disaggregated research are found to be less effective for women than men.
- Care Delivery: Women often face barriers to care, diagnostic delays, and suboptimal treatment due to healthcare systems designed and run predominantly by men.
- Investment: There has been lower investment in women’s health conditions relative to their prevalence, perpetuating limited scientific understanding and data on women’s bodies.
- Data: Health burdens for women are systematically underestimated, with incomplete datasets that exclude or undervalue crucial conditions affecting women.
Closing the Gap: A Trillion-Dollar Opportunity
The report emphasizes the potential economic and societal benefits of addressing the women’s health gap:
- Economic Growth: For every $1 invested in women’s health, the projection is nearly $3 in economic growth.
- Global Impact: Closing the health gap could add 7 more days of healthy living for each woman annually, contribute at least $1 trillion to the global economy by 2040, and generate an impact equivalent to 137 million women accessing full-time positions.
- Reduced Health Burden: Addressing the gaps in women’s health could reduce the time women spend in poor health by almost two-thirds, positively impacting 3.9 billion women.
Strategies for Change
To achieve health equity and foster economic growth, the report suggests a comprehensive strategy involving various stakeholders:
- Invest in Research: Prioritize women-centric research to fill knowledge and data gaps in women-specific conditions.
- Data Collection: Systematically collect and analyze sex-, ethnicity-, and gender-specific data for accurate representation of women’s health burden.
- Enhance Access: Improve access to gender-specific care, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment.
- Financing Models: Incentivize new financing models to support women’s health initiatives.
- Business Policies: Establish business policies that actively support women’s health.
- Raise Awareness: Promote awareness and advocacy to draw attention to the women’s health gap.
By prioritizing women’s health in research, care, and investment, societies can unlock immense economic potential while ensuring a healthier