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Health disparities persist for rural women

Women’s health is an integral part of overall health system of any country. They are the one who takes care of the health of the whole family. Good health of the children to a greater extent depends on the good health conditions of women. They are the foundation of health system/status of family/community. ‘The woman is the pilot around which the family, the society and humanity itself revolves. It is well said that ‘the hands that rock the cradle, rule the world’ so the saying goes. This week and the next two I am leading a team to review and document the health issues affecting especially women and children in a particular rural county.

The sights, sounds and smiles remind me of my very own rural upbringing. The resilience amid difficulties tells of true human spirit, in its uncontaminated form.

Rural women experience poorer health outcomes and have less access to health care than urban women. Many rural areas have limited numbers of health care providers, especially women’s health providers. Rural Kenya is heterogeneous where problems vary depending on the region and County.

Access to health care for rural residents is complicated by patient factors as well as those related to the delivery of care. Rural residents are more likely to be poor, lack health insurance, or rely substantially on out-of-pocket payments; they also travel longer distances to receive care or to access a range of medical, dental, and mental health specialty services

The top of these health problems is malaria, which is not exclusively reserved for rural women. Yet, it is they who are most exposed to bites by the mosquitoes which abound more particularly in that country. So involved are they in their daily tasks, they often do not even feel these bites, and negligence and/or lack of information prevents them from taking antimalarial drugs. Only when fever or tenacious headaches occur do they decide to take a few pills. Often they simply drink medicinal herb teas said to be "diuretic."

Next on the list is malnutrition, with anemia as its corollary. It is caused by ignorance, or lack of information on what food should be eaten; dietary customs and taboos deeply anchored in some families and which deprive women of the nutrients required by their bodies, especially after childbirth; lack of time; and financial difficulties. The problems of malaria and malnutrition affect men and children as well as women, but others are specific to women. Closely spaced pregnancies, which used to be rare in villages, are now increasingly frequent in rural areas. Since planned parenthood is "unknown" in rural areas, most women bear a great many children -- 8-10 or more.

The well-being of rural communities affects the well-being of those who reside in towns and cities because of rural-urban connections through food, drinking water, infectious disease, extreme environmental events, recreation, and for many, retirement residence.

Health care professionals should be aware of this issue and advocate for reducing health disparities in rural women.

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