Global efforts to improve the health of women largely focus on improving sexual and reproductive health. However, the global burden of disease has changed significantly over the past decades. Currently, the greatest burden of death and disability among women is attributable to non-communicable diseases (NCDs), most notably cardiovascular diseases, cancers, respiratory diseases, diabetes, dementia, depression and musculoskeletal disorders. Hence, to improve the health of women most efficiently, adequate resources need to be allocated to the prevention, management and treatment of NCDs in women. Such an approach could reduce the burden of NCDs among women and also has the potential to improve women's sexual and reproductive health, which commonly shares similar behavioural, biological, social and cultural risk factors. Historically, most medical research was conducted in men and the findings from such studies were assumed to be equally applicable to women. Sex differences and gender disparities in health and disease have therefore long been unknown and/or ignored. Since the number of women in studies is increasing, evidence for clinically meaningful differences between men and women across all areas of health and disease has emerged. Systematic evaluation of such differences between men and women could improve the understanding of diseases, as well as inform health practitioners and policymakers in optimising preventive strategies to reduce the global burden of disease more efficiently in women and men.
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Handling editor Seye Abimbola
Twitter Follow Vivekanand Jha at @vjha126
Contributors SAEP and RN drafted the manuscript. MW, VJ and SK revised the manuscript and provided critical input.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement No additional data are available.
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