Despite men being statistically less healthy than women, global health funding has been largely focused on women.
For the past decade, men’s health issues have taken backseat to women’s health issues as far as funding is concerned.
Sarah Hawkes from the University of London’s Institute of Global Health said that programs and policies for men have been “notably absent” for the past 10 years, even though men have shorter lifespans than women and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like smoking and drinking. She is calling for more gender equality in global health funding.
“If you look at the top 10 health problems around the world, they are much more common in men,” she said, “but the current focus is predominantly on women’s health.”
Recent data has shown that men lose three times as many years of healthy living as women to tobacco and alcohol use.
in 2000, global leaders at the United Nations agreed on eight ways to improve the lives of the poorest people around the world: one goal is specifically targeted at maternal health, and all of the other goals “touch on essential aspects of women’s well-being, and in turn, women’s empowerment is critical for achieving the goals,” according to the U.N. Women’s website.
There are no goals specifically targeted to men, and men’s health doesn’t get its own website.
“We don’t want to see this money diverted away from women’s health,” said Hawkes, “but focusing on maternal health means you miss the biggest burdens of disease.”
Health economist Karen Grepin of New York University says, “If we focus on closing inequality, we’ll miss the boat. The goal is to reduce mortality, not to reduce inequalities in the measure of mortality.”
Grepin argues that unhealthy women—mothers specifically—have a devastating effect on households, especially to their children.
“There are really important consequences for women’s health. They play a large role in taking care of children. When they get sick, there’s a spillover effect in the house—for the next generation.”
But an argument like this negates the importance of men in families, addresses men’s health from the standpoint of a “normal” 1950s family, one in which the man is merely the breadwinner. But around the world that is not the case. Men play an equally important role as women in the lives of their children, and in families with gay parents, men are the only parents. If the goal of healthcare is to reduce mortality, shouldn’t equal attention be paid to the sex with the shorter lifespan? Wouldn’t equal healthcare funding actually reduce mortality by lengthening the lives of half of the world’s population?