Statistics about women’s health in Israel
The definition we hold for Health is based on the World Health Organization (WHO) definition:
Health is the sum of all physical, mental, social, and economic aspects that affect the individual’s physical and mental condition, and his/her quality of life.
Gender aspects on health – or: what is unique about women’s health?
- Two thirds of diseases that affect both sexes have been studied in men alone, and most investigational medications have been used by men alone.
- Due to women’s general secondary status, they are more exposed to situations that might harm their health, such as: poverty, discrimination, lack of accessibility to health services, lack of awareness to rights and information, bad work conditions and/or low wages, and violence.
In Israel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict emphasizes and strengthens the above-specified problems.
- Disease and death rates in Israeli women are high compared to women in western countries, despite very high levels of medicine and technology and the National Health Insurance Law.
- Women feel they don’t receive clear and satisfying information from the doctors treating them.
- The Israeli health system mainly provides solutions for physical diseases in women, and a more holistic viewpoint that sees women’s health as a whole – including physical, mental and cultural aspects – is missing.
- Israel is the number 1 country in the world in plastic surgery in young women.
- Over 30% of women in Israel, including a very high percentage of adolescents, deal with a poor body image and are not satisfied with their looks. The percentage of Israeli adolescent girls who have various eating disorders is one of the highest in the world.
- Israel holds the world record of fertility treatments. These treatments have short and long run implications on women’s health.
- Many Israeli women smoke (compared to the western world), and smoking is very common with young Israeli girls.
- Women have unique physical functions that require a singular broad medical attitude, and many varied preventive treatments.
- Many issues regarding the natural desirable women’s circle of life are going through intensive medicalizing processes.
Thus issues such as: menstruation, pregnancy, birth and menopause are considered medical areas, and not natural, requiring medical intervention.
- Knowledge about women’s health and sexuality is not seen as valuable and is not heard. Many women do not trust their own judgment and independent decision making ability regarding their bodies and health, and assume that all of the knowledge on these issues is in the hands of professionals.
- As caretaker (mothers, spouses, caretakers of elderly parents, etc.) in most families, women use the health system more often.
- Many women tend to neglect their own care. The statistics show that women in general, and particularly underclass women, will take care of the rest of the family first and only afterwards of them selves when independent funding is required. One of the most obvious examples is dentistry.
Women’s health in Israel is disquieting and requires investing much more resources and raising awareness both in caretakers and women them selves.
A number of central issues for example:
v The number 1 cause of death of women in Israel is heart disease.
Despite that, heart disease in women is an issue which has not been studied enough, it is many times diagnosed significantly late and is not treated well enough. Most women aren’t even aware of this fact and the fact that they are at risk of heart attack. However women are not alone in this: most doctors are also not aware of this fact. Heart disease is still considered a men’s disease. Signs of heart attacks in women can be very different from those of men’s and therefore late or wrong diagnosis and a lower tendency to come to the hospital are highly significant factors. Death after a first myocardial infraction and a repeated myocardial infraction is more common in women than in men. Studies show that diagnosis of heart disease in women occurs in average 4 or 5 years later than in men.
v Women’s life expectancy all around the world is higher than men’s. In Israel women live in average until the age of 81 and men until the age of 77. However a crosscut international view of various western countries shows that the Israeli women’s condition is not so good: in a comparison between 10 western countries, among which Israel, Israeli men are graded third in life-expectancy (after Sweden and Japan), while Israeli women are graded eighth compared to women in other western countries.
v Serious disease morbidity rate in Israeli women (such as cancer and heart disease) is very high compared to western women, while men are graded better in their comparative morbidity rate.
v Women suffer much more than men, sometimes 2 and 3 fold, from diseases such as: migraine, diabetes, hypertension, osteoporosis, various autoimmune diseases, eating disorders, depression and suicide attempts.
All of these phenomena significantly lower women’s quality of life, creates a dependency in the medical system and in family members and weakens women personally and financially. Studies have shown clear mutual relations between health and socioeconomic status. Here are some examples for factors affecting the relations between health and status:
- Quality and quantity of food.
- Quality of medical care as derived from physical and cultural accessibility to health services and economical condition.
- Physical and economical accessibility to health information in issues of preventive care.
- Amount of women’s working hours during the day.
- Type of work women do (management / cleaning), usually directly linked to education level.
- Amount of hours left for women to rest.
- The help given around the house at the end of the work day – child care, housekeeping, taking care of the extended family.
- Economical ability to take care of oneself and ones health – nurture, fitness, recreation, holistic medicine – such as getting a massage, practicing yoga, shiatsu, reflexology, and more.
- Dealing with economical pressure on a daily basis causes mental attrition, fatigue, frequent anxiety states and in extreme cases a mental breakdown and depression affecting our health.
10 recommendations from Women and Their Bodies to improve women’s health in Israel
- Every research study funded by the State of Israel must include women subjects.
- Budgets should be referred to studies on various women related health issues (such as: in the US the governmental budget for women’s health is 4 billion dollars a year, in Israel there is no separate budget).
- The right of every woman to control her fertility and decide if, how and where to give birth should be recognized.
- A system to promote women’s health should be created for promoting a healthy lifestyle, that will allow taking responsibility and a personal feeling of the individual controlling his/her own health.
- Women should be properly represented in policy determining and health service planning frameworks.
- A preventive care system is required, in which women can centrally have all tests.
- Introducing a variety of contraceptives and treatments for women of all ages into the health basket.
- The State of Israel must refer resources for women of weakened groups (ethnic, economic, national and geographical), in promoting preventive care, health education and treating disease.
- A curriculum for teenagers on issues such as sexuality and positive body image should be developed, sensitive to unique cultural needs of different groups in the Israeli society.
- The State of Israel must turn the spotlight to elderly women in Israel, many of which suffer from disease and poverty, and act in various way to immediately improve their quality of life.