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Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has initiated a debate about the challenges faced by women from various cultures and at different phases of life in improving their health and well-beingStage Image

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has initiated a debate about the challenges faced by women from various cultures and at different phases of life in improving their health and well-being

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Women’s health

The future is female!

2016/6/15

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One of the most important goals of the international community over the next few decades will be to sustainably improve women’s health and well-being. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, funded a scientific study that examined the best ways to close the gap between the current situation and this vision of the future.

Katja Iversen believes that a woman’s health and well-being are the keys to happiness. “How is it,” she asks herself, “that nearly every morning when I wake up I have the feeling that I’m happy?” Other people also seem to notice this, and they ask her why she seems so happy. “I don’t look like a model,” she says. “I’m not very rich, but I’m also not poor. However, I enjoy my job, and I have a family and good friends.”

Studies have shown that Danish people are the happiest people on Earth — and Iversen is from Denmark. She is a senior executive in New York at Women Deliver, a non-governmental organization dedicated to the idea that things develop positively — for everyone — wherever girls and women are able to realize their full potential and decide for themselves what they want to do with their lives.
  • Katja Iversen from "Women Deliver"
  • Katja Iversen from "Women Deliver"
    © Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

    Katja Iversen was a member of the all-woman panel of well-known international experts who met in Darmstadt, Germany, in the spring of 2016 to discuss “Women’s health and well-being” and the challenges women face all over the world. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is a company with a sense of responsibility and a tradition that goes back generations. This is why it understands the importance of women’s health and well-being for local economies and societies. What’s more, the company, as a global player, tries to take a comprehensive view of all the global connections that are involved. “Women all over the world are playing a key role in efforts to improve their lives. The promotion of women’s health and well-being are at the center of these efforts,” says Uta Kemmerich-Keil, CEO of the Consumer Health business.

    “More and more women now have the opportunity to live to be one hundred, and they want to enjoy each and every year of their lives to the full, in a state of good health and well-being. The problem is that there are major barriers that restrict their access to healthcare services, and this has far-reaching consequences for women — for example, in terms of their productivity and quality of life. This is exactly the issue we want to address by means of our debate, in the hope that decision-makers around the world will begin to develop more integrated approaches and sustainable solutions.” The company’s new mission statement also includes this goal, as does its vision “Improving Life.”

    The health and well-being of women is a major international issue. In September 2015, for example, the UN and government representatives from all over the world met in New York to set firm development goals for the period leading up to 2030. “We are extremely happy that these goals went beyond general principles such as gender equality and that the declaration specifically mentions the well-being of women,” says Iversen. How can these goals be achieved? “It all starts with data,” says Kemmerich-Keil. In other words, those who want to find solutions need to know the questions women ask themselves, their aspirations and dreams.

    Focusing on women’s health


    A lot of new information about these areas is now available, thanks to a major study funded by the Consumer Health business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and conducted by the renowned Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on three continents. The study examined five nations: India, Mexico, Brazil, France, and Germany. More than 450 women, as well as numerous government and administrative decision-makers, were interviewed. The EIU also conducted 27 extensive in-depth interviews with experts such as Angela Spatharou, Head of McKinsey in Mexico, Catrin Schulte-Hillen from Doctors Without Borders, the Sociology professors Jan Delhey from Germany and Natacha Ordioni from France, well-known journalists from Europe, Asia, and South America, and specialists for health, nutrition, and public hygiene.

    “The most important thing is to give women more opportunities.“

    Tim Wilson
    Physician and corporate consultant

    The combination of survey data and individual statements offers key benefits, according to Hilke Brockmann, a professor of Sociology at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany. Brockmann points out that in-depth information about how satisfied women are with their lives, their health-related behavior, and their lifestyles, along with the discussion of these topics with experts, makes it possible to draw conclusions that are more practically oriented than purely numerical indicators such as income, the number of children a women has, or the statistical availability of healthcare services.

    Money alone can’t make you happy


    The study confirmed a hypothesis from the field of happiness research, which is one of Professor Brockmann’s areas of expertise: As it turns out, once household income reaches around US$ 75,000, women stop becoming happier even though their incomes are increasing. For example, women whose financial needs are well covered do not enjoy a carefree life by any means. Such women often suffer from a type of organizational stress, because they have to organize the things they can afford to purchase and the plans they can afford to make. By contrast, the biggest dream of a young woman in one of the emerging markets might be to own her own bicycle. Many examples show that health priorities have to conform to a society’s culture and social structure — and that the path to empowerment (in the sense of women being able to make their own decisions regarding their health and lifestyle) can take many forms. The study shows that action has to be taken in this area.
    The women participating in the debate are internationally recognized experts

    The women participating in the debate are internationally recognized experts

    © Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany

    Specifically, it points out a major discrepancy between what has generally been offered up until now and what women would actually like to have. For example, the general focus in society is on traditional healthcare services, especially disease prevention, according to Aviva Freudmann, the EIU Research Director in Frankfurt who managed the study. However, we now know that well-being goes far beyond simple health checks and treatments. The study funded by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, uses many examples to explain why our perspective needs to be expanded. Tim Wilson, a physician and corporate consultant in the international healthcare sector, spoke to the study team from an African village that recently began generating its own solar power. The village had sent several women abroad to find out how it could produce its own power, and when they came back everything was different. “They were more respected, had a higher status, and reported that they themselves felt much better,” says Wilson. “The most important aspect of empowerment is to give women more opportunities to determine the course of their own lives and to secure their own well-being.”

    Tremendous opportunities and huge economic potential

    2016/6/15

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    A study conducted by the McKinsey Global Institute reveals the huge unexploited potential of women. According to the study, the gross global product could increase by as much as US$ 28 trillion if gender equality were to be achieved worldwide. That figure corresponds to the current combined economic output of the USA and China. The new study by EIU and Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, goes a big step further by examining what is probably the most important challenge — namely, the steps that must be taken in order to achieve the global goals associated with the health and well-being of women. All the experts on the podium in Darmstadt agreed that the only way to achieve these goals is to start listening to what women and girls around the world have to say about this subject. If that happens, the effort can succeed. This is the vision that the Pakistani film director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy described in 2016 when she won an Academy Award for the second time. Her work focuses on women’s rights in her homeland, and her goal is to ensure that her daughter will be able to live in a better country one day. This dream is shared by millions of other people around the world.
     
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