Wednesday 20 March 2024

The Unseen Web: How Our Surroundings Shape Women's Health

Marla Ahlgrimm
Imagine a web, its invisible threads connecting women to their environment. Marla Ahlgrimm says that this network shapes their health in profound ways, sometimes subtly, sometimes dramatically. Today, we look at the strands of this web and how it affects us all. 
The Air 
The air we breathe and the water we drink can be silent saboteurs, laments Marla Ahlgrimm. Pollutants can irritate lungs and worsen respiratory problems. The same pollutants can damage blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart disease in women. Even more concerning is the presence of hormone-mimicking chemicals that can disrupt menstrual cycles, fertility, and potentially raise the risk of breast cancer. 
Products We Use 
From cleaning solutions to beauty products, Marla Ahlgrimm says that everyday items can harbor hidden threats. Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, common chemicals in these products, can disrupt hormones, potentially leading to health concerns such as breast cancer and endometriosis. 
Climate Change 
The rising temperatures, extreme weather events, and shifting weather patterns brought on by climate change pose a significant threat to women's health. The stress and anxiety of an uncertain future can weigh heavily, especially on women who often shoulder the burden of household well-being. Marla Ahlgrimm also points out that food insecurity and malnutrition due to disrupted agricultural systems can have severe consequences for women, particularly during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Additionally, climate change can alter the spread of diseases, putting women and girls at greater risk of malaria and other mosquito-borne illnesses. 

Access To Healthcare 
Unequal access to quality healthcare is a torn thread in the web, leaving many women vulnerable. Poverty, discrimination, and lack of infrastructure can prevent women of all ages from receiving preventive care, crucial screenings, and essential medical treatment. 
Workplace Hazards 
Women in some occupations face unique challenges. Exposure to toxic chemicals, dust, and ergonomic risks in agriculture, manufacturing, and construction can lead to occupational injuries and illnesses, impacting their physical and reproductive health. 
Domestic Violence 
The web is often marred by violence. Women experience a higher prevalence of intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and human trafficking. These experiences leave lasting physical and mental scars including PTSD, depression, and anxiety. Marla Ahlgrimm says it can take years to recover from these issues. 
Harmful Traditions 
Deeply ingrained social norms and cultural practices like female genital mutilation (FGM) and child marriage inflict devastating health consequences on women and girls. 
Nutritional Deficiencies 
Iron deficiency (anemia), particularly prevalent in low and middle-income countries, weakens women. Marla Ahlgrimm says nutritional imbalance can lead to fatigue and complications during pregnancy and beyond. 
Mental Health 
Women are, sadly, more susceptible to depression and anxiety. This vulnerability arises from a complex weaving of biological factors, social and environmental pressures like gender discrimination, societal expectations, and exposure to violence. Marla Ahlgrimm says that this is exacerbated by the stigma still surrounding mental health care in many parts of the world. 
Limited Access to a Healthy Lifestyle 
Marla Ahlgrimm
Unequal access to healthy food and safe spaces for physical activity prevents women from adopting healthy habits, explains Marla Ahlgrimm. This lack can contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. 
Understanding the intricate web connecting women and their environment is crucial. By addressing environmental pollution, promoting gender equality, and ensuring access to quality healthcare and education for all women and girls, we can strengthen this web and create a world where women can thrive.


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