Thursday, March 31, 2016

Politicians who want to cut costs, improve society: Read this!

When Societies Make Women's Health a Priority, Everyone Benefits

By Ross Pomeroy, RealClearScience Journal Club

In an exhaustive systematic review published to the journal PLoS ONE, researchers based out of the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University find that investing in women's health produces economic, societal, and humanitarian benefits that persist for generations.

Kristine Husøy Onarheim, Johanne Helene Iversen, and David E. Bloom scoured a number of databases for research pertaining to "women, health, and economics" published between 1970 and 2013. The trio screened 20,834 papers before eventually settling on 124 relevant, high-quality articles for their review. Pouring through every single study, the reviewers uncovered a great many positive outcomes that come from prioritizing women's health. Here are some highlights:
  • Meeting one-third of the need for family planning in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal could increase per capita income in each country by 8 to 13 percent. Meeting all of the unmet need for contraception could result in income gains of 31 to 65 percent.
  • In a study conducted in Tanzania, "children of mothers living in areas with iodine supplementation programs attained an estimated 0.35–0.56 years of additional schooling, compared with children living in areas without supplement programs."
  • The availability of oral contraception in the U.S. is associated with a greater number of women pursuing higher education and professional careers.
  • "Greater access to abortion in the U.S. is associated with higher rates of college graduation, lower rates of single parenthood, and lower odds of welfare receipt."
  • "Poor maternal health is associated with diminished child health, with implications for birth weight, neonatal survival, cognitive development, child behavior, school performance, and adult health and productivity," the reviewers found, and these negative effects can spiral into a vicious cycle (displayed below). Programs that remedy maternal malnutrition and poverty benefit mothers, children, and indeed all of society for decades to come. 
(More here.)

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