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To Improve Women’s Access To Health, Improve Women’s Education

“When talking about improving health care, it is paramount that local traditions and customs are taken into account,” Edna Adan Ismail, a nurse-midwife, U.N. diplomat, and former Foreign Minister of Somaliland, writes in a Thomson Reuters Foundation opinion piece. “In some cultures, including mine, women — for example — cannot make their own decisions in regards to medical care, even in emergency situations,” she states, adding, “Improving women’s access to health care will involve much more than lowering costs, improving transportation, or opening more clinics. It is a matter of changing people’s outlook on life.” Ismail continues, “One of the first steps is to raise awareness that health care is both a right and a necessity. … Women should recognize health care as a priority and demand greater access … from their countries, from their communities, and from their families.” She states, “Only by opening the minds of women through education in the health sciences will we help them understand the value of prenatal checkups, breastfeeding, immunizations and other health care that women in the developed world take for granted.” She concludes, “The problem can be solved only through dedicated and systematic efforts to empower women, to change the way they see themselves, and to train more midwives” (11/5).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.