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8 Reasons Why Healthy Communities Start with Educating Women

It is more and more exciting to find out just how integral women truly function as key figures in shaping our world. Beyonce sings about girls ruling the world, is on top of the music world herself and has the fandom to prove it. Michelle Obama has encouraged healthy communities throughout the country. And there’s Oprah’s Leadership Academy in Kenya and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in Tennessee. And don’t overlook Melinda Gates. These are just a select few examples of ways that women have taken action to empower not just women, but to encourage healthy, thriving communities. Women and girls hold the keys to spreading knowledge and building a passion for creating a healthy environment throughout their networks. In this arena, when women are educated, the world becomes educated. 

Women Are Getting Involved In Greater Numbers

While it used to be predominantly white males who sought higher public health education, that trend is being flipped on its head. According to the book Who Will Keep the Public Healthy?: Educating Public Health Professionals For the 21st Century, men used to outnumber women in the study of public health, but that has drastically changed. Women now outnumber men, representing two thirds of public health graduates. The field is also becoming more diverse when it comes to age, race, ethnicity and culture.

Women Care For Their Communities

According to the book Community Organizing and Community Building For Health, women have long been devoted to sharing their knowledge and experience with others. The book cites the example of New York co-op apartments, where African American women were often tenant leaders in buildings. These women used the skills they learned caring for their own families to care for others. They shared meals and made sure that everyone in the building had what they needed. By educating such women to make healthy choices, their whole community benefits. 

Educated Women Can Do More For Families

Educating women might alter the traditional balance of power within the family structure, according to Unite For Sight, a global non-profit organization supporting eye care clinics. Putting this power into the hands of women can lead to more positive outcomes. Educated women are more likely to significantly influence a family’s decision making process and may direct resources into healthy choices that ultimately impact the whole clan.

Women are Effective in Rural Areas

A study of community health in rural areas of India determined that it was women who held the power to make positive changes. The study “found that women are the best health workers and educators in rural areas, since cultural beliefs are more deeply rooted among them, they look after the sick in the family, they can enter every house where men cannot and the risk of malpractice and misuse of training is less with women.”

Another study on a proposed community health program in rural Indo-China aimed its message at women’s groups, calling them the most important to the program’s success.

Women Get Involved

A story published by the American Heart Association shows the impact that women can have on the health of their communities. Cindy Santa Ana turned her life around, going from health impaired and constantly fatigued to healthy and vibrant. She observed that poor health habits had become ingrained in her children and their classmates and decided to take action. She became “class mom,” teaching students healthy behaviors and creating menus for the class. She and her local PTO launched a Wellness After School program in 2011, delivering a persuasive message of good health to even more receptive minds in the next generation.

Educated Mothers Have Healthier Babies

Women who have the knowledge to help themselves, their families and their communities, are likely to act on it. One study from the University of Maryland found that data gathered in developing countries, indicates that a higher level of education of a mother is correlated with lower neonatal, infant and child mortality. The children of women with higher levels of education fare better in the world.

All Education Matters For Women

The importance of educating girls and women to benefit the greater populace doesn’t end at learning about health care. All education is beneficial to women and thus the communities of which they are a part. One study published in the American Economic Review found that school policies regarding age at time of entry may adversely impact the education of young at-risk women, and subsequently, the quality of a woman’s mate. This, the study reports, can have effects on fertility and infant health. 

Women Are Changing The World

The impact that women have on the world around them has never been felt more powerfully than it is now. Women are taking charge of their lives, their careers, their health and their communities. Educating women to make advantageous decisions when it comes to their personal health can spread like wildfire through their families, workplaces, neighborhoods and our world.