Academic Publication

Investing in Women's and Children's Health

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
National Center for Biotechnology Information
Publication Year:
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-Being

Significant and long-lasting benefits accrue from investing in the health, quality of life, productivity, and economic growth of women and children. Despite these benefits, glaring gaps must still be filled to reduce the mortality rate, provide equitable access to quality health care among women and children, and improve outcomes for children who survive past the age of 5. Because healthy women and children are the linchpin for healthy and thriving societies (see Figure 5-1), investing in the health of women and children is indispensable to achieving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), providing more education for children, especially girls, can result in greater accumulation of human capital, increased productivity, and increased income and economic development (UNICEF, 2015). In an analysis of multiple countries, a clear correlation was noted between average years of education and poverty rates: For each additional year of education among young adults ages 25–34, national poverty rates were 9 percent lower (UNICEF, 2015). Similarly, a study in Botswana found that each additional year of secondary schooling reduced cumulative human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection risk by 8.1 percent (De Neve et al., 2015). Based on such evidence for the connection between education and health, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and other HIV and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) organizations have even shown an interest in developing incentives to keep girls in school. The U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief's (PEPFAR's) Determined, Resilient, Empowered, AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women (DREAMS) program, explored in Chapter 4, highlights education key to reducing HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

In addition to the education benefits for young adults, children born to more educated mothers are better off financially and are more likely to receive vaccines and rehydration, sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets, and have other good health interventions available to them. Countries where women hold more than 30 percent of seats in political bodies are shown to be more inclusive, equitable, and democratic (USAID, 2015). The benefits of investment in women and children will extend beyond health and translate into increased economic prosperity, strengthened societal bonds, and improved community resilience. These benefits make it a wise investment opportunity for the United States.

This chapter begins by discussing the shift of the global development agenda related to women and children, from the unfinished Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the multidisciplinary SDGs, and the current state of their health with a focus on mortality rates. Next, it reviews the current efforts in this area, including those of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), World Health Organization (WHO), and Global Financing Facility (GFF). The chapter then goes through the key themes of the WHO strategy, with a focus on “Survive, Thrive, and Transform,” and highlights where gaps still remain in addressing health issues for women and children, and what can be done to accomplish the related targets of the SDGs over the next 15 years.

Invest in girls and women: The ripple effect. NOTE: GDP = gross domestic product. SOURCE: Giberson and Taddoni, 2014.



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