Despite a plethora of United Nations (UN) resolutions, World Health Organization action plans and national targets, recent data shows that of 193 countries in the world, only 35 countries for women and 30 for men will achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target 3.4: a one-third reduction, relative to 2015 levels, in the probability of dying between the ages of 30 and 70 as a result of NCDs.
While this may seem a dismal projection, progress can be accelerated and governments can achieve the NCD- and other health-related targets if they take urgent action to address the social, political, environmental, commercial, and gender determinants of health – all of which are included in the SDGs.
In order to drive forward progress on both NCDs and the achievement of the SDGs, a gendersensitive lens must be applied to health services delivery. We know that women and girls are exposed to risk factors for poor health differently than men and boys; that women and girls face multiple barriers in seeking health services; and that gender equality and equity, both components of basic human rights, remain a lofty goal for the majority of women and girls around the world.
The first UN High-Level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), to be held in September 2019 in New York, is an opportunity for governments to recognise that health systems must mainstream gender-sensitive services that address gender-related barriers to health for people of all genders, and secure equitable access to services across the continuum of care, prioritising the most marginalised women and girls.
This policy brief outlines some of the genderspecific dimensions of NCDs that UHC must address, and presents a number of recommendations to improve the health and wellbeing of girls and women.