Women’s health has been critically underserved by a failure to look beyond women’s sexual and reproductive systems to adequately consider their broader health needs. In almost every country in the world, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading causes of death for women. Among these, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) and cancer are the major causes of mortality.

Risks for these conditions exist at each stage of women’s lives, but recognition of the unique needs of women for the prevention and management of NCDs is relatively recent and still emerging.

In a Journal Article (published in Nature Medicine), researchers argue for a life-course approach to preventing and treating NCDs in women, focusing on two of the most globally prominent NCDs, CVD and cancer.

First, they outline why it is relevant to consider women’s needs in relation to NCDs separately from men’s, from the beginning to the end of life; second, they discuss sex-specific, age-dependent risk factors and suggest protective intervention points.

A team of UNSW Researchers, led by Dr Cheryl Carcel, describes the barriers to implementing a women’s life-course approach and propose solutions and avenues for further research.

Overcoming gender gaps in women’s health is a huge challenge in many societies and requires a fundamental shift in community attitudes, including among health-care professionals.

Lack of awareness of women’s disease symptoms by health-care workers, compounded by implicit or explicit gender bias, can further impede women’s access to timely diagnoses and appropriate care.

The paper concludes that much remains to be done toward the goal of equitable health care for women.