Women comprise nearly half of the global population and have a significant influence on the well-being of their families, communities, and economy,1 yet the one aspect of healthcare that can make the greatest difference to their well-being has been neglected worldwide: preventive care.
To provide women with the preventive care they need, world leaders need to see, understand, and act on data to improve women’s health. The Hologic Global Women's Health Index has quantified the gap in preventive healthcare measures for women's health and is a vital tool for guiding nations, territories, and communities in addressing the most important aspects of women’s health and health equity.
Quantifying the Gap in Preventive Care for Women
Preventive care is linked to significant improvements in average life expectancy for women and quality of life, but more than six in 10 women reported that they were not tested for four of the most serious diseases and conditions that affect them—high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and STDs/STIs.
In addition, according to the Health Care Cost Institute, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant dampening effect on the use of preventive healthcare services for women.2 Submitted insurance claims for preventive services declined in 2020 compared to 2019.
The Hologic Global Women’s Health Index survey quantifies the gap between what women believe about preventive care and what they actually experience. It confirms that far too few women around the world reported in 2020 that they were tested for heart disease and cancer—the first- and second-highest causes of death for women worldwide—in the past 12 months.
The Survey Notes Disturbing Realities:
- High blood pressure is linked to heart disease, which kills an estimated 17.9 million people and is the leading cause of death for women globally each year,3 yet in 2020 only one in three women had been tested for this key health indicator in the last 12 months.
- Cancer accounted for nearly 10 million deaths in 2020,4 but in that same year, worldwide, only 12% of women said they had been tested or screened for any type of cancer in the last 12 months. In some countries and territories, only 3% of women were tested.
- Globally, in 2020, fewer than one in nine women were tested for STDs/STIs in the countries and territories studied, despite the serious health consequences they can have beyond the initial infection.
“Despite the clear lack of preventive care actually administered, the majority of women in all the countries and territories surveyed believe that regular health checkups help improve people’s health."
Women Believe in Health Checkups, but There Is a Disconnect
However, women’s belief in the value of regular health checkups did not necessarily translate into action, such as personally speaking with a health professional in the past 12 months. In the majority of countries, there were significant gaps between women’s perceptions and actions. In Tanzania, for example, although 100% of women say regular health checkups improve women’s health, just 70% say they have spoken with a health professional in the past 12 months. And in Myanmar, 97% say regular checkups improve health, but only 38% had spoken with a health professional in the past year.
The availability of care may factor into this disconnect and could potentially be improved by increasing the engagement of healthcare workers within the community.
But one thing is clear, the world can do better.
About the Index Score
A higher score on the overall Hologic Global Women’s Health Index means more women are having positive experiences in the five dimensions that Hologic and Gallup have found explain more than 80% of women’s average life expectancy at birth: Preventive Care, Basic Needs, Emotional Health, Opinions of Health & Safety, and Individual Health. Higher scores in the individual dimensions mean more women are having positive experiences in each of these respective areas.
Index Reveals Stark Differences among Countries in Preventive Care
Country-level findings on the Preventive Care dimension of the Index range from a low of eight in Ivory Coast to a high of 44 in Latvia. Women younger than age 50 and those with less than a primary education score lowest.
“Screening and testing standards vary widely from country to country and territory to territory. In addition, there is no international consensus addressing when, whom, and how to test, yet such standards are essential for driving action and accountability in public health programs.”
No Consensus on Healthcare Screening Cadence
Recommendations for how often women should be screened or tested for the top diseases vary based on age and gender, the healthcare resources available to them in their locales, and the consensus of the medical community.
While the 12-month period the Index studied is not a globally agreed-upon cadence, the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index provides a benchmark, and later research will capture testing data year-over-year to compare against the most current health advice.
The Index Provides Guidance for Making Positive Change
The Hologic Global Women's Health Index has quantified the gap in preventive care measures for women's health, providing a vital compass to guide leaders of countries and territories in addressing the most important aspects of women’s health and health equity. Better healthcare means more women around the world will be able to help their families, communities, societies, and economies thrive while also enjoying the benefits of good health themselves.
Women’s health is global health.
To learn more about the findings from the 2020 Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, please download the report.
- See 2020 Hologic Global Women’s Health Index Report Appendix 1 – Regressions & Correlations
At the Heart of Good Women’s Health
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women worldwide, but the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index reveals a significant gap between the need for blood pressure screening to catch early signs of heart disease and the availability of screening around the world.
The Need for More Cancer Testing & Screening
Cancer is one of the most frightening health challenges women face. To fight this threat and improve outcomes for women, healthcare policymakers and leaders worldwide must better understand women’s real-world experiences, especially when it comes to screening and treatment.