Women’s diagnostic testing needs unmet worldwide

Sept. 23, 2021

While international testing standards differ, the inaugural Hologic Global Women’s Health Index found that within the past 12 months, more than 1.5 billion women worldwide were not tested for any of four critical diseases for women: cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and sexually transmitted diseases/infections (STDs/STIs).

Developed in partnership Gallup, the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index examines markers for women’s health, by country and territory, and over time. Its findings are based on the experiences of more than 60,000 women and girls from 116 countries and territories. Conducted as part of the Gallup World Poll, which began in 2005, the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index represents the feelings and actions of approximately 2.5 billion women and girls.

Based on responses from the 120,000 total individuals surveyed, women’s health needs are not being met globally. The global score was 54 out of 100 on the index, and no one country or territory scored more than 69. Notably, 40% of those surveyed — equating to about a billion women and girls — said they had not talked to a healthcare professional in the last year, while approximately 60% — about 1.5 billion – were not tested for four common diseases that affect women’s health.

Just 12% of women worldwide reported being screened for any type of cancer.

Globally, only about one in five (19%) women reported being screened for diabetes, the sixth leading cause of death for women around the world. In countries and territories with high obesity rates, such as the United States, one in three women (34%) reported being tested.

On average, only one in three women (33%) worldwide had their blood pressure tested despite heart disease being the leading cause of death globally for women and men.

Fewer than one in nine women (11%) reported being tested for STDs/STIs, which are risk factors for further health issues like HIV, cancer, and infertility.

To help countries and territories determine a strategy for ensuring a healthy future for women, including adequate diagnostic screening, the index identifies five dimensions of women’s health that explain more than 80% of women’s average life expectancy at birth: preventive care, opinions of health and safety, emotional health, individual health and basic needs. In the index, countries and territories are ranked across each of these five dimensions, then those scores are combined to create an overall ranking. Positive improvements on any of the five dimensions could potentially help women live healthier, longer lives.

In this first year of the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index, no single country or territory scored more than 69 out of 100. Generally, most countries and territories that lead the world on the Index also lead the world in how much of their wealth they invest back into their health systems, including Austria, Switzerland and Norway. Overall, while women in high-income countries and territories were only 17% of the women surveyed in the index, they collectively have at least a seven-point lead on the Index over all other women globally.

Conversely, the countries and territories with the lowest scores on the Hologic Global Women’s Health Index all share high income inequality and weak or destabilized infrastructure for healthcare. The countries and territories with the lowest scores on the index are a mix of mostly low- and lower-middle income economies.

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