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Global Health Depends on Gender Equality

(New York, USA) – José Luis Castro, President and CEO of Vital Strategies, has issued the following statement to coincide with International Women’s Day 2019:

“Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) – including cancer, diabetes and heart disease – have been among the leading causes of death for women across the globe for at least the past three decades. Today, they are responsible for two in every three deaths among women each year. Progress has been made in recent decades to close the appalling gap in health outcomes between men and women around the world. But the victories achieved through reductions in maternal mortality and infectious disease are threatened by the rising tide of cancers, diabetes and other NCDs, especially in low- and middle-income countries. 

Gender inequality undermines girls’ and women’s right to lead healthy, long lives, and poor health limits girls’ and women’s access to jobs and education. Smart policies can alleviate this burden: For example, bans on indoor smoking and improved access to clean-burning cookstoves would greatly reduce women’s exposure to second-hand smoke and air pollution, which are common risk factors for lung disease. And taxes on unhealthy commodities like sugary drinks and alcohol can simultaneously reduce consumption and its negative consequences while financing universal healthcare programs. Hundreds of national and city governments have already reduced NCDs by adopting these policies.

The impact of NCDs threatens to unravel the fragile health gains of the past several decades and undermine future efforts to ensure gender equity. This year, on International Women’s Day, we join the global community to “better the balance” by addressing the toll of NCDs on women, as individuals and caregivers, worldwide. If we fail to take action, we will never fully realize economic, social and political equality.” 

Noncommunicable diseases – including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and mental and neurological disorders – are the leading cause of death and disability among men and women in developed and developing countries alike. Every year, 18 million women die from NCDs, often in their most productive years. 8.6 million women die from cardiovascular disease alone, and women are 2.3 times more likely to contract COPD than men.

Media Contact

Christina Honeysett, Vital Strategies:; +1.914.424.3356

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our programs reach into 73 countries and help prevent death and illness from noncommunicable disease, reduce harm caused by environmental factors, and support cities as engines for public health.

To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.