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HEALTH

Women’s health key to a developed nation

Maintaining women health is vital to a country’s overall health and welfare.

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Women are the heart of the family and a family is the basic unit of a civilised society. If women are emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy than the society will be healthy as well. Women are the superglue that hold together the whole family unit, thus holding together the society. Without healthy, strong and determined women, a society is indeed in a detrimental state. It’s a reality that women who are healthy are more able to bear healthy infants and raise their children to be decent examples, good citizens, and to inspire and encourage them for better education.

Women are faced with many chronic health issues such as cardiovascular diseases, cancer, mental illnesses, diabetes, osteoporosis and anaemia. Women have a physiological process called menstruation occurring every month in specific days and this physiological process may bring women to have iron deficiency anaemia. Blood contains iron within red blood cells. Women with heavy periods are at higher risk of iron deficiency because they lose blood during menstruation.

Every woman needs to increase her calcium intake to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and other calcium deficiency diseases. The decline in the level of the hormone estrogen during menopause causes a woman’s bones to thin faster. Hypoparathyroidism, a hormonal disorder may also become a reason of calcium deficiency disease.

In most developing countries, majority of women are suffering from thyroid diseases due to iodine deficiency. Moreover, getting enough iodine is especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women, as they have higher needs. An iodine deficiency may cause serious side effects, especially for the baby, such as stunted growth and developmental problems.

Goiter is also more common in women than in men and especially in women before menopause. A thyroid gland produces thyroid hormone, which controls many activities in body. Diseases of the thyroid gland make it produce either too much or too little of the hormone. Depending on the amount of hormone produced, most women may often feel restless or tired, or they may lose or gain weight. When thyroid gland becomes overactive and makes too much thyroid hormone, that person is said to be hyperthyroid. The most common reason of hyperthyroidism in women is the autoimmune condition, generally known as Graves’ disease, where antibodies target the gland and cause it to speed up hormone production.

In developing countries majority of women spend most of their time at homes, so their exposure to sunlight is very limited, which causes deficiency of Vitamin D. In one recent study, women with Vitamin D deficiency are nearly twice as likely to experience pain in their legs, ribs or joints compared to those with blood levels in the normal range. In most cases, women who complained of chronic daytime fatigue and headaches were found to have very low Vitamin D level in blood. Women with low levels of this vitamin are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, asthma and cancer. Vitamin D can play a major role in the prevention and treatment of a number of different diseases, including type 1 and type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, hypertension, glucose intolerance, and multiple sclerosis.

Pregnancy is 200 to 300 times deadlier in the developing world due to lesser gap between pregnancies, malnutrition and poor antenatal facilities. At the same time, neonatal mortality is 14 times higher than developed world. Compared with babies conceived 18 months to 23 months after previous pregnancy, research shows that a short gap between pregnancies may mean your baby is more likely to be born premature, have a low birth weight, and may be small for gestational age.

Although treatment protocols for severe malnutrition have in recent years become more efficient, but majority of women, especially in rural areas, have little or no access to formal health services and are never seen in such basic health providing units. There is a serious need for interventions to prevent protein-energy malnutrition in women through promoting food supplementation schemes for breast-feeding mothers, whereas micronutrient deficiencies would best be addressed through food-based plans such as dietary variations through home gardens and small livestock like chickens, eggs, milk and yogurt. The fortification of salt with iodine has been a global success story, but other micronutrient supplementation schemes have yet to reach vulnerable female populations sufficiently. To be more effective, all such steps and interventions need to be associated with nutrition-education campaigns and health interventions. To achieve the hunger and malnutrition related developmental goals, we need to address poverty, which is clearly associated with the insecure supply of food and nutrition in under developed areas of developing countries.

Maintaining women health is vital to a country’s overall health and welfare. Now is the time to create an environment combining scientific knowledge with cultural considerations, available resources, and technology to provide women with the best possible opportunities to live healthy lives.

Dr Faisal Khan is currently practicing in Saudi Arabia and can be reached at drfaisalkhanarticle@gmail.com.

OPINION

Mothers Seeking Careers Struggle to Maintain Identity

Career gives women a sense of being and purpose

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Mariam* reminisces of her hurriedly typed assignments with merely an hour’s deadline for submission. She has recently completed a 2 year program for a Masters in Human Resource Management. Being a student enrolled in a Virtual University, she had the facility to view lectures, submit assignments and attempt quizzes online using her laptop from home. However, married life with four kids made these tasks tedious for her. Always juggling between household work, parental duties and social responsibilities, Mariam struggled on a daily basis to complete her second Masters degree. “When I got married 20 years ago, I had already completed my Masters in Mass Communications with an interest in Public Relations and Advertising,” shares Mariam. “After marriage, we moved to a city which was not very modern. I also had a fear that my in laws may not like the idea of me working anywhere. It was a typical marriage, the life of an ordinary girl turning into a house maker followed by travels, charms, luxuries and motherhood. So the personality, if it ever existed, now revolves around home and kids.”

An Identity Crisis
Like Mariam, many other married women in Pakistan and around the world, tend to feel a loss of purpose in their lives when they are unable to perform tasks other than their daily household chores. In 1963, Betty Friedan, an American psychologist was perplexed by an unusual mental condition that she found was quite widespread, mostly among married women. They complained of depression, of being unable to focus on things, of bursting into tears without reason, sleeping a lot and feeling unusually tired. This feeling of unhappiness was there despite the women having secure marriages, children, financial security and social networks. In her book titled “The Feminine Mystique”, Freidan wrote that these women did not face any hormonal or psychological issue. She realised that the source of these women’s condition was an identity crisis. A woman told her that she had everything – a husband moving up in his career, a lovely home, yet when she woke up in the morning there was nothing to look forward to. One question summed up her feelings: Is this all there is in life?

Half a century later, the situation is still the same for many women today. With better social and education standards, the impact of modernity brings with it a new brand of identity crisis in the women. “I got a bit stuck in a question I ask myself again and again, that am I of any worth?” shares Mariam. “Can I be of some use apart from daily house chores?” she says.

Amna*, who has prior work experience in banking, advertising and electronic media, also felt a vacuum in her life, until recently being hired in a local school. “Initially I felt bad for not being able to go back to work or do something I was good at,” she says. “Later I realized it was not easy with three kids. Time has changed now, the news industry has evolved so much.” she laments. Nevertheless, she still feels happy that she would be able to utilise some time of her day in a useful manner, no matter that the work would not be associated with that of her prior experience.

The Time Factor
In the Asian culture, tradition remains strong and dictates many aspects of the society. Psychologists have observed that as young girls grow into adolescence and womanhood, they comply more and more with the feminine roles demanded of them. Some studies even suggested that women are subtly conditioned to feel that over-achievement is an “unfeminine” trait. Those who do become part of the workforce, face difficulties in moving up the corporate ladder, especially if they are married.

Surprisingly, women may face a similar situation even in the West, where despite a more liberal approach being practiced towards life, they may still be expected to eventually contribute to raising a family. In 2017,New Zealand’s current prime minister Jacinda Ardern was drawn into a sexism row when she was the opposition leader. She was asked if having a baby would affect her chances of becoming a prime minister. “It is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace,” Arden had then responded, saying it was a dilemma lots of working women faced. Jacinda went on to become the prime minister of her nation and became the second woman to give birth to a child while holding that office.

According to the Denver Women’s Commission, most women who work outside their homes are still the primary caregivers for their young children as well as elderly relatives. For some, the option of hiring a nanny or a close relative taking care of offsprings is available, for others it is either not there or not preferred, hence the burden falling on the woman. Consequently, many women can only pursue their careers on a part-time basis, resulting in fewer promotion opportunities. They consider the ages of their children and the amount of time they have available before they decide to pursue a career path. “I wanted to join the corporate world so badly but a 9-5 job was not a workable option for me,“ says Uzma*, an MBA degree holder with a major in Marketing and now a mother of two. “I didn’t want to waste my studies, so I opted to join a school which was an 8-2 job.”

Not Losing Hope
Taking out lesser time from their household routine still does not deter women from pursuing a career. Although many of them would still not be satisfied until they can fully participate in a working field and are eager to reach a top position, most feel that as long as there is an outlet for them to experience creativity, management skills and independence, working for fewer hours is actually not that bad. “Apart from teaching, I also started a small scale home based baking business and later on, started an event management business along with two friends,” says Uzma. “I was able to give time to my family as well and was a working woman side by side. It was easy to balance both sides due to less working hours.” she explains.

Amna always pursued a career option. “I’m very busy with my 3 kids and honestly I’m loving it,” she responds. “But sometimes you want to do something extra with your life. As I see my kids growing, they need my time and attention more then ever, but it is not very difficult to start working again. A lot of my friends are working moms and they are doing a great job. Nothing is difficult if you know the art of time management,” expresses Amna. She now looks forward to her new job starting late in summer.

What Friedan argued in the 60s is that women be allowed and facilitated to pursue activities that enhance their identity. For many women, a career is what gives them a sense of being and purpose. With this in mind, Mariam hopes that since she has

completed her studies, she may one day be able to join a higher educational institution as a lecturer. “Some still laugh at me and I also question myself what’s the use after all these years,” she admits. “ But then I say that just for the sake of myself, I have to do something.”

*Names of case studies have been changed to protect identities.

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OPINION

When competition becomes destructive

Does a fierce competitive streak undermine social values?

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The acclaimed Darwinian Theory of “Survival of the Fittest” states that organisms having a similar arrangement of assets compete with each other, those who fight better get a greater amount of the assets and it increases their chances of survival. Ultimately, the individuals who are more qualified to their condition and adjust to its progressions keep on living, whereas those who don’t perish.

This theory holds water even today. Like all other living beings, humans have had numerous competitions along the course of life. But the list has expanded astonishingly to this day and age, and has brought about ruinous challenge.

Earlier, it was fundamental survival needs like food, sanctuary, clothing and water that living beings competed for. With the world getting more industrialized and mechanized, rivalry additionally got entangled. The once basic physiological needs turned up to be determinants of lifestyle and success. For example, from food and shelter, it is now better food or fine dine and bigger and lavish shelter.

Family is one important unit which not only teaches children what is good and bad but also guides all their choices and mind set. In connection to the idea of rivalry, the effect of family weight is too extraordinary to be disregarded. We come across a number of situations right in the family where the societal inflictions come in, like parents pushing their children to the edge to do better than their fellows, their cousins and even their siblings, in all aspects of life; in academics, in sports, and all extracurricular competitions. This competitive attitude by parents is evident in them promising gifts to their children if they are able to score more than others. The emphasis to be ahead of everyone else adds an element of ill-will.

However, parents are not the only ones to blame; this new trend has seriously implicated every relationship within the family structure of our society. Siblings being at odd with each other to get the supposed family glory and to get most of the ovation from elders, is perhaps the story of every family. It is particularly common amongst sisters who contend routinely to be the perfect one, both in family and outside. One such incident of idealization was reported on social media recently where a teenager starved herself and went into anorexia to look slimmer than her sister.

Competition is furthered cultivated in schools and other scholarly organizations where the yardstick favours the intelligent and achievers only. Management Guru Ken Blanchard says that “as we go through the educational system, resources become scarce and we learn that in order to attend the best schools, make the football team, etc., we have to compete with each other”. There is like an on going tussle between schools to be in the limelight, be it the struggle to get the most noteworthy number of A graders, highest university placement, medals in sports or having the most fancy building and campuses.

When it comes to friendship and keeping up with the social circle, competition gets savage. The effect of peer pressure is undeniable and it plays a great role in creating an environment of negative competition amongst friends. The expectations to be at the same level, to be of same standards and lifestyle lead to ill-will feelings only. Aggression, fear, insecurity and jealously then result in unhealthy behaviors like faking one’s personality, compromising one’s values and de-valuing others.

Competition continues as we reach the workplace. The workplace rivalries include competition for pay, promotions, benefits, getting the best project and making it to the best employee card and standing out from all others. Sadly, our workplace environment is framed in a way that expects us to say ‘I am better and I am going to beat others to prove it’. There is no room for positive collaboration that can lead to better productivity and growth, instead the opposite happens as the workforce is on consistent social pressure of keeping up with the destructive competition and sometime at the expense of someone else.

Sports is, probably the greatest manifestation of competition. Every game has a win or lose criteria. Team members who do not score a point or qualify for some international game event are left devastated. The feeling of letting team-down, country down or not being good enough is disastrous. It is impossible to consider sports as a sound, aptitude learning and group building movement.

In a more extensive dimension, we see competition in the business sector. It won’t be wrong to state that businesses run on competition. All the food brands, clothing and service industries are battling with one another to get the highest customers, highest sales and highest profit, more outlets and the most eye-catching advertisement.
Countries are at competition with one another. Super powers are competing to get even more powerful and countries try to beat each other in trade, the most elevated score on expectations for everyday comforts, personal satisfaction and the best measure of nukes. The consequences are all evident in Syria, Palestine and other troubled parts of Middle East and elsewhere in world, where continuous blood shed for decades is costing innumerable human lives.

When the competition gets fierce, it then leads to hostile motives. If a person believes that he is not good enough and cannot see others get ahead, he or she may plot ill-will actions, like taking revenge and harming others.

In addition such kind of unhealthy competition has been linked to mental health problems. The fear of judgement, of being imperfect, feelings of worthlessness, guilt and negative self-image not only poison the mind but lead to harmful consequences. The ramifications of such challenge have especially influenced the psychological health of youth, who are at more hazard than the older folks because of the inalienable naivety of youthful age.

Through and through, such kind of destructive competition is unsafe for the society as a whole. Because a society can only flourish on the values of healthy competition, good-will for each other and a sense of cooperation to achieve common good. Tragically, it functions on ill-will, hatred, jealousy and revenge today, all fueled by negative competition. This has been highlighted by Sun Tzu, a Chinese strategist, writer and philosopher. In his famous work, The Art of War, he writes that negative competition is inherently destructive, over time on all parties and positions including your own.

The word ‘competition’ conveys a positive message, implying that it can motivate one to do the best. However, it’s important to know the type of competition and pay attention to its consequences because the ‘dog-eat-dog’ attitude has never and will never benefit anyone.

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HEALTH

Second man seems to be free of AIDS virus after transplant

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Some 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV and the aids pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s.

A bone marrow stem cell transplant has led to a patient with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) going into long-term remission, meaning he might become the second person to be cured of the infection.

Although the patient has been in remission for 18 months, the authors of the British study published on Tuesday in the science journal Nature cautioned it was too early to say he had been cured.

Almost three years after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection – and more than 18 months after coming off antiretroviral drugs – highly sensitive tests still show no trace of the man’s previous HIV infection.

“There is no virus there that we can measure. We can’t detect anything,” said Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the man.

There has been only one documented case of HIV, which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), being cured. Twelve years ago, the “Berlin patient” received a bone marrow transplant of stem cells from a donor with two copies of the mutation of the gene CCR5, known to be resistant to HIV.

That patient’s disease was sent into permanent remission using treatment described as aggressive and toxic. Numerous attempts to replicate the procedure have not been successful until now, with the latest case dubbed that of the “London patient”.

The case is proof of the concept that scientists will one day be able to end AIDS, the doctors said, but does not mean a cure for HIV has been found.

Gupta described his patient as “functionally cured” and “in remission”, but cautioned, “It’s too early to say he’s cured”.

The man is being called “the London patient” in part because his case is similar to the first known case of a functional cure of HIV – in an American man, Timothy Brown, who became known as the Berlin patient when he underwent similar treatment in Germany in 2007, which also cleared his HIV.

Brown, who had been living in Berlin, has since moved to the United States and, according to HIV experts, is still HIV-free.

‘Gives us hope’

Most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure is expensive, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people – most of them of northern European descent – who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.

Sharon Lewin, an expert at Australia’s Doherty Institute and co-chair of the International AIDS Society’s cure research advisory board, told Reuters news agency the London case points to new avenues for study.

“We haven’t cured HIV, but [this] gives us hope that it’s going to be feasible one day to eliminate the virus,” she said.

The London patient, whose case is set to be presented at a medical conference in Seattle on Tuesday, has asked his medical team not to reveal his name, age, nationality or other details.

Some 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV and the aids pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s. Scientific research into the complex virus has in recent years led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients.

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