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Bairbre de Brún MEP welcomes EU report on redressing gender inequalities in health

7 September, 2005

Sinn Féin MEP Bairbre de Brún will today address the European Parliament in support of a report aimed at redressing disparities between how men and women are treated by health systems.

Ms de Brún is due to speak in support of a report by Eva-Britt Svensson MEP on 'gender discrimination in health systems'.

Speaking today the former Health Minister in the 6 county Assembly said:

"I welcome this excellent report by Eva-Britt Svensson MEP regarding 'gender discrimination in health systems,' which contains good and practical recommendations that are worthy of support from the European Parliament. The report highlights statistics emanating from Scandinavia which suggest that there are inequalities in the response of health systems and services in relation to women and men.

"An analysis carried out in Sweden* highlighted wide discrepancies between men and women in terms of prescription, treatment and costs. For example, men received twice as many light treatments of the body than women for diagnosis of eczema and psoriasis despite the fact that these diseases are equally common in both genders. Such discrepancies are more common than people think.

"It has been said that being a woman is bad for your health. Indeed, available statistics reinforce this commonly held assertion. The World Health Organisation has estimated that 1/5 of women in the world have been/will be subjected to physical or mental abuse during their lifetime.

"A recognition of the gender inequalities in health is required if we are to successfully combat disparities. As stressed in this report 'good physical and mental health for all must be a priority objective in all economic and political decision-making and... the focus must be on disease prevention strategies which include proper provision of information to the public and guaranteed access to adequate health care for everyone.'

"The attainment of good health is not merely the absence of illness, but is about a holistic state of complete physical, mental and social well-being. This concept lies at the heart of a strategy, called the Investing Health Strategy, which I initiated in my constituency during my time as Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in the North of Ireland Assembly. I saw myself not as a Minister of Illness but as a Minister of Health and this report by Eva-Britt Svensson highlight many of the pertinent issues in improving health and combating health inequalities.

"If women are to be truly empowered then structural and societal inequalities must be adequately tackled". ENDS

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