3 challenges women face in accessing healthcare

We spoke with PSI Board Member Dr. Ana Langer, a Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, who joined our Board in January 2022. Transcript follows the below video.

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Tell us about yourself!

My name is Ana Langer. I’m a physician originally from Argentina; I lived in Mexico for many years and have been in the U.S. for the last 16 years. I’m a professor in the Global Health and Population Department at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, where I lead a program called the Women and Health Initiative. Before joining Harvard, I worked for two international NGOs, the Population Council and Engender Health, which is relevant information for my role now on the board of PSI.

What inspired you to join the PSI board?

What makes PSI particularly exciting to me is the mission of PSI that is people centered. And that’s something that is quite unique for international NGOs… and in my field, the field of sexual and reproductive health, I very much admire the focus that PSI has on sexual and reproductive health and rights and also abortion rights, which is something quite unique in the field of American headquartered international NGOs. And also the emphasis on maternal health, which is very much the field I’m working in.

I also admire PSI for its ability to adapt and evolve over time, depending on changes that we see in our context and new challenges that will affect us all. And, well, the ability that PSI has to reinvent itself.

How do you hope to contribute to the PSI board?

I started my work as a clinician, so I understand clinical work quite well. I’m a physician…so I know about the health of women and the health of children. After working as a clinician, I became a researcher.

So the emphasis that PSI puts on research and evidence and also monitoring and evaluation of its programs is something that I think I can contribute to. And with my work at the Population Council and at Engender Health, I developed new programs; I implemented new programs. So I think that some think that it may be of value for PSI as well. So I think that my participation in the board gives me the opportunity to almost close the loop and bring different pieces of experience and expertise that might hopefully help PSI with its mission.

I see myself as someone who comes from a developing region. And I’m very, very familiar and sympathetic to the challenges that we face in those contexts where health systems are weaker and where policies may not be as evidence-based as we would like them to be or evidence informed, and where people have more challenges accessing a quality healthcare. So I appreciate the efforts that PSI and its leadership make to completely and deeply involve the perspectives and the participation of its network all over the developing world.

What are three challenges women face in accessing healthcare?

One challenge is related to the gender barriers that women still face all over the world in some places more than in others. But the gender related inequities through the life course, since childhood through adulthood and even in older age, that put women always in a disadvantaged position is something that would need to be overcome for women to have real control over their reproductive lives.

Another important challenge is that while there are still many cultures and sometimes religions or different social determinants that represent barriers for women to have access to the rights that they are entitled to, and in many cases, those rights have to do with their sexual and reproductive health. And finally, I would say that although the World Health Organization and all global partners and most countries around the world have embraced the Universal Health Coverage agenda since 2015, there is still a long way to go for all women and couples and men as well, of course, to have access to a quality health care that it doesn’t impose an undue burden on their financial situation.

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