100 years of International Women's Day

Fact sheet
6 March 2011

Nutrition and development

More than 10% of newborn children have a low birth weight in at least seven countries in the Region, which is a sign of maternal malnutrition.

The prevalence of anaemia, which reduces resistance to infection and hinders learning and school performance in children and productivity in adults, is 30.7% in pregnant women, 21.5% in non-pregnant women and 23.1% in preschool children.

Reproductive health

Three countries in the Western Pacific Region still have unacceptable high mortality, with over 200 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births.

Most countries in the Region have made progress: the overall maternal mortality ratio has declined from 130 to 51 maternal deaths per 100 000 live births between 1990 and 2008.

Maternal mortality ratio has been reduced from 130 per 100 000 live births in 1990 to 51 per 100 000 live births in 2008.

Chronic diseases and conditions

Women in richer countries live longer on average than those in the developing world. Women's health-adjusted life expectancy ranges between 70 and 80 years in the high-income countries of the Region, while it is in the 60s or below in most low- and lower-middle income countries.

Within countries, the health of women differs depending on socioecononmic determinants, such as gender-based inequalities, and women's level of household income, education, rural versus urban location, employment status, ethnicity, age and other factors

Mental health is a significant problem for women, with neuropsychiatric disorders ranking the highest among the 10 leading causes contributing to women's disability.

Depressive disorders account to close to 42% of the disability from neuropsychiatric disorders among women, and only 29.3% among men.

Intentional injuries are among the 10 leading causes of disability in the Region for women but not for men, confirming that violence against women, which can result in mental health issues and other chronic health problems, remains a public health challenge.

Women's exposure to lifestyle-related risk factors such as unhealthy diets, inadequate physical activity, smoking (or exposure to second-hand smoke) and alcohol, and thus their burden of noncommunicable diseases have been increasing.

Cardiovascular diseases are the second leading cause contributing to disability-adjusted life years (DALYs: measure of overall disease burden, expressed as the number of years lost due to ill-health.)

Women are exposed to second-hand smoke, leading to their increased rates of lung cancer and risk of coronary heart disease. Surveys show that over 50% of female students (13-15 years old) in the Region were exposed to second-hand smoke in homes, and over 64% in public places.

Of cancers in women, breast cancer is the most frequent, with an estimated 300 000 new cases in 2008 in the Region.

Cervical cancer, with an estimated 100 000 new cases in 2008 in the Region, is an important concern.

Women outlive men, but with poor quality of life during old age. The Region is home to one third of the world's population of people aged 65 years and over, more than half of whom are women.

Health Topic