CHENNAI: A two-year study on ‘women and healthcare’, conducted by Metropolis Healthcare, a private lab, reveals there is little awareness among women themselves on the importance of maintaining their own health for national development and social welfare despite women’s empowerment continuing to remain a highly sensitive and powerful issue among them.
According to the study, anaemia, deficiency of vitamin D and vitamin B12, and high cholesterol were major silent killers in women in Chennai,in the age group of 10 to 70 years. Over 64 per cent of the women who were studied had vitamin D insufficiency and 17 per cent had vitamin D deficiency. (The difference between insufficiency and deficiency is a matter of degree).
Additionally 83 per cent reported anaemia, 31 per cent borderline or high cholesterol, 12 per cent Vitamin B12 deficiency, over 21 per cent have poor or unsatisfactory control of diabetes with only about 44 per cent reporting excellent or fair to good control of diabetes. The study also shows that six per cent of the sample women tested positive for Hyperthyroidism and 12 per cent tested positive for Hypothyroidism.
Dr Anita Suryanarayanan, vice-president, Lister Metropolis noted that while life expectancy of women is higher than men in most countries, a number of health and social factors combine to create a lower quality of life for women.
Speaking to Express, Dr Kumudha, head of Neonatology Department, Savitha Medical College and former deputy director of Institute of Child Health said anaemia, vitamin D and calcium deficiencies are the predominant problems in women. Though working women can increase vitamin D levels through sunlight, housewives are not taking regular walks in the sun. “Our traditional food has rich nutrients. The best is rice porridge, Vitamin B12 is rich in this because of fermentation of the food. Also, dates, ragi, pulses form a rich nutritious diet. But women don’t take them, because they are not aware of all these,” Dr Kumudha added.
The major challenge in the State is anaemia among women and adolescent girls. In Tamil Nadu, Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets are given to all boys and girls of class 6-12 in government and aided schools every week and pregnant women are given 200 IFA tablets. “We need to ensure that women and adolescent girls consume these iron tablets as well as eat iron-rich foods. The consumption of doubly fortified salt, which contains iron and iodine should also be promoted more vigorously. Vitamin-A is most required for children,” pointed out Zachariah Job, Chief Field Officer for Tamil Nadu, UNICEF.
Another aspect which affects the health of women is child marriage. Around 15 per cent of girls in TN are married before 18 years – better than the national average of 30 per cent, though it is not a consolation.