European strategy for women’s health

Just over half of the 900 million people living in the WHO European Region (463 million) are women and they are living longer than men. Their life expectancy is also increasing but these extra years (women’s “mortality advantage”) are not necessarily healthy years: on average, women spend 10 years in ill health.

The main causes of ill health and death among women differ across life stages and countries. Physical health conditions dominate in early life; depressive and anxiety disorders develop among young women moving into adult life; and lower back pain, ischaemic heart disease and cancers are more prevalent in older age.

Health inequities among women both within and between countries in the Region are large and unjustifiable. Equal access to health services has not been achieved for women living in rural areas, those from minority groups or those who are migrants, refugees or asylum seekers.

WHO/Europe is drawing on the evidence and experience of key experts in women’s health from national and local governments, academia, United Nations agencies, civil society and other partners to develop a European strategy for women’s health.

This strategy will focus on the determinants of women’s health, without necessarily comparing women with men. The aim is to inspire governments and stakeholders to work towards improving women’s and girls’ health and well-being beyond issues of reproductive, maternal and child health. The strategy will encourage taking action to reduce health inequities for women by, for example, eliminating discriminatory values, norms and practices; tackling the impact of gender and social, economic, cultural and environmental determinants; and improving health system responses to women’s health and well-being.

To read Beyond the mortality advantage:investigating women’s health in Europe on the who.int website