Published on Wed Mar 10 2021

Women's Health in Times of Emergency: We Must Take Action.

Yeonsoo S Lee, Maya Behn, Kathryn M Rexrode

Women have historically faced gendered patterns of disadvantage during times of emergency. Evidence demonstrates differences in gendered exposures and inequities during acute crises such as natural disasters and pandemics. These patterns, without intervention, may be perpetuated in future crises.

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Abstract

Women have historically faced gendered patterns of disadvantage during times of emergency. Evidence demonstrates differences in gendered exposures and inequities during acute crises such as natural disasters and pandemics, including Covid-19, and longer-term emergencies such as climate change. These patterns, without intervention, may be perpetuated in future crises. Threats to women's health in times of emergency can arise from restricted access to health care, economic disadvantages, and harmful social norms. During crises, women face additional barriers to accessing maternal, contraceptive, and abortion care, likely exacerbating existing inequities in reproductive health outcomes. Gendered inequalities in financial and economic stability can become even more stark. Globally, women perform the majority of health care and unpaid caregiving work, but face barriers to affording costs of living and obtaining health insurance due to over-representation in low-wage jobs. Finally, gendered expectations of social roles contribute to increased vulnerabilities, such as displacement and poverty. Violence against women rises in times of emergency and pathways to escaping trauma can be limited. In addition to directly addressing women's unique barriers and providing support in times of emergency through bolstering health care access, economic, and social support systems, thoughtful solutions such as trauma-informed care, increasing the number of women in leadership roles, educational initiatives, and advocacy from health professionals are needed to protect and advance women's health.