Let’s talk about World Menstrual Hygiene Day

The 29th of May was World Menstrual Hygiene Day 2019, so Health Europa wanted to take the opportunity to highlight the growing contribution to research and global action on menstrual health, saying:

“It’s about time we mitigate gender-health related disparities across the world – and research by the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), led by Dr Penelope Phillips-Howard, is helping to address this. Issues relating to menstrual hygiene and health, and issues such as the lack of sanitary products in low and middle-income countries are all aspects that LSTM are addressing. Following successful interventions in Kenya, which have seen students staying in school, the expertise developed will now be used to research period poverty faced by homeless girls and women living in Liverpool.”

To read more about this go to: https://www.healtheuropa.eu/menstrual-hygiene/91807/

Why we need to talk about losing a baby

Losing a baby in pregnancy through miscarriage or stillbirth is still a taboo subject worldwide, linked to stigma and shame. Many women still do not receive appropriate and respectful care when their baby dies during pregnancy or childbirth. 

Miscarriage is the most common reason for losing a baby during pregnancy. Estimates vary, although March of Dimes, an organization that works on maternal and child health, indicates a miscarriage rate of 10-15% in women who knew they were pregnant. Pregnancy loss is defined differently around the world, but in general a baby who dies before 28 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as a miscarriage, and babies who die at or after 28 weeks are stillbirths. Every year, 2.6 million babies are stillborn, and many of these deaths are preventable. However, miscarriages and stillbirths are not systematically recorded, even in developed countries, suggesting that the numbers could be even higher.  

To read more about this go to: https://www.who.int/maternal-health/why-we-need-to-talk-about-losing-a-baby

Celebrating international women’s day

International women’s day is a day of celebration and reflection on progress made to promote and protect women’s equality and human rights. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. The Declaration laid down a pathway for gender equality and women’s empowerment. Over the past 20 years, governments have taken steps towards implementing the commitments made in Beijing. Overall progress has been made in reducing maternal mortality and, to a greater extent, infant mortality and morbidity rates. Progress accelerated with the launch of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health in 2010.

To read more about this on the WHO website, go to: https://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/news/womenday/en/

Improving maternal healthcare for vulnerable women

Women Political Leaders Global Forum has published an assessment on improving maternal healthcare for vulnerable women in the EU. Their recommendations are:

  1. Design and implement mandatory training of health professionals in delivering culturally-sensitive care.
  2. Design and implement a basic maternal healthcare benefits package for vulnerable pregnant women that covers 1) Information/ advice on family planning, 2) Access to contraception and 3) Antenatal, delivery, neonatal and postnatal care.
  3. Ensure and make clear that using maternal healthcare services does not pose the threat of having to leave the country due to one’s immigration status.
  4. Develop specific indicators to measure maternal health and pregnancy outcomes for vulnerable pregnant women.

To read the full assessment on improving maternal healthcare



A message from Commissioner Andriukaitis for International Women’s Day 2018

International Women’s Day – an occasion that celebrates women’s achievements, from political to social, whilst continuing to call for gender equality and women’s rights – I would like to remind people of one key prerequisite for meeting our aspirations: health. The World Health Organisation defines health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease infirmity”. Health is for all, without discrimination. It is the obligation of each State to support the right to health, and to allocate adequate resources to health promotion and prevention, including the provision of regular screening for cancers for women.

To read the message in full go to: http://ec.europa.eu/newsroom/sante/newsletter-specific-archive-issue.cfm?newsletter_service_id=327&newsletter_issue_id=7659

WHO’s recommendations on antenatal care

Pregnancy can be a precarious time in a woman’s life. By ensuring high-quality and people-centred health services for mothers-to-be, health systems make a valuable investment, with benefits that go well beyond pregnancy. Pregnancy offers an opportunity for health-care providers to work across sectors to address many aspects of health, leading to a reduction in disease and death and improvements to well-being. The information given to pregnant women is passed from mothers to their children and wider families, from generation to generation, and is a prime example of the life-course approach, as health behaviour at this critical time in life influences health behaviour and affects health later in life.

Prenatal classes in Georgia are turning pregnancy into a life-course opportunity for health.

Tinatin Gagua, head of an antenatal care clinic in Tbilisi, Georgia stated:

“When we started our training in 2011, antenatal care was a brand new concept in Georgia. Doctors were not used to spending time informing pregnant women about their pregnancies and their babies’ health. We were trained to give classes to groups of pregnant women. Being in a group made a great difference because it helped women to ask questions and socialize with their peers.”

More information about the WHO’s recommendations on antenatal care on the who.int website.

Breast implants

The European Commission and its Scientific Committee on Health, Environmental and Emerging Risks (SCHEER) has published two Scientific Advices related to breast implants and health. They are on 1) new scientific information on the safety of PIP breast implants and 2) the possible association between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL).

The first piece of advice concerns whether there is sufficient new scientific information on the safety of PIP breast implants to warrant an update of the 2014 SCENIHR Opinion and based on the scientific information it has gathered and evaluated, the SCHEER concludes that this is not the case at present.

The second piece of advice is on the state of scientific knowledge on a possible association between breast implants and anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL). The SCHEER concluded that, at present, there is insufficient scientific information available to establish a methodologically robust risk assessment on the potential association of breast implants with the development of ALCL.

To download the full advice on the safety of PIP breast implants from the ec.europa.eu website

To download the full advice on the association between breast implants and ALCL from the ec.europa.eu website

Women’s health and well-being in Europe

The latest session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe has considered the Strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region and produced a report “Women’s health and well-being in Europe: beyond the mortality advantage”.

To provide background to the Strategy, the new report:

  • presents a snapshot of women’s health in the Region;
  • discusses the social, economic and environmental factors that determine women’s health and well-being;
  • focuses on the impact of gender-based discrimination and gender stereotypes;
  • considers how people-centred health systems could respond to women’s needs; and
  • outlines important perspectives for the international and national frameworks that govern women’s health and well-being in Europe.

Download the full report on Women’s health and wellbeing in Europe from the euro.who.int website

Breast cancer care

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in Europe.
It is the most deadly cancer in women: one out of every six women with cancer will die from breast cancer.
In addition, incidence and mortality rates for breast cancer vary widely between countries: although a higher mortality rate in some countries may be due to a higher incidence rate, in others it is due to a lower rate of survival. This reflects major inequalities, including diverse quality of care.
The European Commission Initiative on Breast Cancer is a person-centred, sustainable initiative aimed at improving and harmonising breast cancer care across Europe. It will include training templates and a platform of guidelines.
To download the leaflet on the Initiative on Breast Cancer from the ecibc.jrc.ec.europa.eu website

Maternal nutrition linked to children’s risk of NCDs and obesity

The nutritional well-being of pregnant women affects not only their fetuses’ development but also children’s long-term risk of developing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) or obesity, according to a new report from WHO/Europe “Good maternal nutrition. The best start in life”.

While the importance of good nutrition in the early development of children has been recognized for decades, the report offers a systematized review of the most recent evidence on maternal nutrition and obesity and NCD prevention. The findings confirm that a mother’s nutritional status – including overweight and obesity, excessive gestational weight gain and gestational diabetes – affects not only her child’s health as an infant but also the child’s risk of obesity and related chronic diseases as an adult. In short, maternal nutrition can truly have an intergenerational impact.

The findings of this report further emphasize the need to implement strategies to optimize the nutrition of reproductive-age women. The evidence suggests that such interventions are among the most effective and sustainable means of achieving positive effects on health and reducing health inequalities across the next generation.

For more information about the impact of maternal nutrition on children on the euro.who.int website