It Pays to Invest in Women’s Health

Date: Friday, February 17, 2012

UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet has joined a prestigious reference group for a new research project on the economic benefits of investing in women's health.

The Norwegian-led research will build on existing studies that refer to the positive “ripple effects for families and communities when women's health, education and employment are promoted. It responds to the need for a better understanding of the ways in which investing in women's health can contribute to economic growth.

“When women are healthy and educated, and can participate in the economy, the benefits extend to their children, communities and nations," Ms. Bachelet has said. “Poverty and malnutrition decline, living standards improve and economic growth increases."

Norwegian Foreign Minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, will lead the group, which so far consists of Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); former Prime Minister of Norway and WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland (who is also on the UN Secretary General's Global Sustainability Panel); and General Secretary of World YWCA, Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda. Key partners include representatives of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and the international medical journal The Lancet. The project will last 18 months, with its results to be published by The Lancet.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Government has just launched its first white paper on global health, which outlines the country's ambitions in this field and examines the links between domestic and foreign policy. One of its three priority areas is mobilizing for women's and children's rights and health. Norway allocates nearly NOK 3 billion of its annual aid budget to global health initiatives, and the white paper details objectives related to child and maternal healthcare, protecting and promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, supporting global health research and knowledge development, and the fight against female genital mutilation, and other priorities.