A fair start for all girls is critical for the health of women

Many of the health problems faced by adult women have their origins in childhood

Proper nutrition is a key determinant of health, both in childhood and beyond. The nutritional status of girls is particularly important due to their future potential reproductive role and the inter generational repercussions of poor female nutrition. Preventing child abuse and neglect and ensuring a supportive environment in early childhood will help children to achieve optimal physical, social and emotional development. These will also help avoid risky behaviors and a significant burden of disease, including mental health disorders and substance use later
in life.

Changing behavior now brings major health benefits later

It is essential to address the health and development needs of adolescents if they are to make a healthy transition to adulthood. Societies must tackle the factors that promote potentially harmful behaviors in relation to sex, tobacco and alcohol use, diet and physical activity, as well as provide adolescents with the support they need to avoid these harmful behaviors.

In many high-income countries, adolescent girls are increasingly using alcohol and tobacco, and obesity is on the rise. Supporting adolescents to establish healthy habits in adolescence will bring major health benefits later in life, including reduced mortality and disability due to cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancers.

Addressing the needs of older women will be a major challenge to health systems

Because they tend to live longer than men, women represent a growing proportion of all older people. Societies need to prepare now to prevent and manage the chronic health problems often associated with old age. Establishing healthy habits at younger ages can help women to live active and healthy lives until well into old age. Societies must also prepare for the costs associated with the care of older women.

Many high-income countries currently direct large proportions of their social and health budgets to care for the elderly. In low-income settings, such care is often the responsibility of the family, usually of its female members. Policies are needed in relation to health financing, pension and tax reform, access to formal employment and associated pension and social protection, and to the provision of residential and community care.

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