VCU Institute for Women's Health
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The Institute for Women’s Health is developing a global outreach component in women’s health, organizing a work group at VCU to foster partnerships for international health and human services projects and working to identify potential VCU International Universities for future collaboration opportunities.

The Institute seeks to foster collaborations between Virginia Commonwealth University and international organizations at home and abroad in order to enhance global experience for faculty students and departments, as well as to provide expertise on women’s health to international partners.


Women's health issues have attained higher international visibility and renewed political commitment in recent decades. While targeted policies and programs have enabled women to lead healthier lives, significant gender-based health disparities remain in many countries. With limited access to education or employment, high illiteracy rates and increasing poverty levels are making health improvements for women exceedingly difficult.

Health-related challenges continue. Many of the modest gains in women's health realized in recent decades are now threatened or have been reversed due to war, economic instability and the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Basic health care, family planning and obstetric services are essential for women – yet they remain unavailable to millions. Gender-equitable approaches to health are needed to enable women's full participation in the planning and delivery of health services.

The health of families and communities are tied to the health of women – the illness or death of a woman has serious and far-reaching consequences for the health of her children, family and community.

  • Maternal conditions are leading causes of death and disability among women.  More than 99 percent of the estimated 536,000 maternal deaths each year occur in the developing world.
  • Every year, about 10 million women endure life threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, sometimes leading to long term disability
  • Globally, women comprise half of the adults living with HIV/AIDS – in sub-Saharan Africa, the proportion rises to 61 percent. A woman affected by HIV/AIDS is plunged further into poverty, losing the ability to provide for herself and her children.
  • Early and unwanted childbearing, HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy-related illnesses and deaths account for a significant proportion of the burden of illness experienced by women-especially in low-income countries.
  • Nearly all maternal deaths are preventable through timely prenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendance during delivery and the availability of emergency care to deal with complications. The health benefits of spacing and limiting births for mothers and children with family planning services are well known.
  • Millennium Development Goal 5 focuses on reducing the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) by 75 percent between 1990 and 2015 and ensuring universal access to reproductive health by 2015

From the Global Heath Council -

Inequalities in Global Women’s Health


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Violence against women and girls represents a global health, economic development and human rights problem. At least one out of every three women worldwide are beathen, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, iwth rates reaching 70 % in some countries. This type of violence ranges from rape to domestic violence and acid burnings to dowry deaths and so called honor killings. Violence against women and girls is a human rights violation, a public health epidemic and a barrier to solving global challenges like desperate poverty, HIV/AIDS and conflict. Violence and abuse devastates the lives of millions of wome, and knows no national or cultural barriers.
  • Violence against women is a major public health problem and a violation of human rights.
  • Lack of access to education and opportunity, and low social status in communities are linked to violence against women.
  • Violence by an intimate partner is one of the most common forms of violence against women.
  • A wide range of physical, mental, sexual and reproductive, and maternal health problems can result from violence against women.
  • Many women do not seek help or report violence when it occurs.
  • In a 10-country study on women's health and domestic violence conducted by WHO,
    • Between 15% and 71% of women reported physical or sexual violence by a husband or partner.
    • Many women said that their first sexual experience was not consensual. (24% in rural Peru, 28% in Tanzania, 30% in rural Bangladesh, and 40% in South Africa).
    • Between 4% and 12% of women reported being physically abused during pregnancy.
  • Every year, about 5,000 women are murdered by family members in the name of honour each year worldwide.
  • Trafficking of women and girls for forced labour and sex is widespread and often affects the most vulnerable.
  • Forced marriages and child marriages violate the human rights of women and girls, yet they are widely practiced in many countries in Asia, the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Worldwide, up to one in five women and one in 10 men report experiencing sexual abuse as children. Children subjected to sexual abuse are much more likely to encounter other forms of abuse later in life.
Health consequences can result directly from violent acts or from the long-term effects of violence.
  • Injuries: Physical and sexual abuse by a partner is closely associated with injuries. Violence by an intimate partner is the leading cause of non-fatal injuries to women in the USA.
  • Death: Deaths from violence against women include honour killings (by families for cultural reasons); suicide; female infanticide (murder of infant girls); and maternal death from unsafe abortion.
  • Sexual and reproductive health: Violence against women is associated with sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS, unintended pregnancies, gynaecological problems, induced abortions, and adverse pregnancy outcomes, including miscarriage, low birth weight and fetal death.
  • Risky behaviours: Sexual abuse as a child is associated with higher rates of sexual risk-taking (such as first sex at an early age, multiple partners and unprotected sex), substance use, and additional victimization. Each of these behaviours increases risks of health problems.
  • Mental health: Violence and abuse increase risk of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, sleep difficulties, eating disorders and emotional distress.
  • Physical health: Abuse can result in many health problems, including headaches, back pain, abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, gastrointestinal disorders, limited mobility, and poor overall health.

The social and economic costs of violence against women are enormous and have ripple effects throughout society. Women may suffer isolation, inability to work, loss of wages, lack of participation in regular activities, and limited ability to care for themselves and their children.

From the World Health Organization:


Virginia Commonwealth University | Institute for Women's Health
Sanger Hall, 1st Floor
1101 E. Marshall St.
PO Box 980319
Richmond, VA 23298-0319
Phone: 804.827.1200
last updated: September 2, 2013