Issues and Challenges

Mental & Physical Health: Moving Towards Better Female Health Care

Awoman plays many important roles during her lifespan, but undeniably being a mother accounts higher than the rest. Essentially, a mother play a critical role in the upbringing of a family. Her central position as a caregiver places a set of responsibilities that directly affects the growth of her children since their presence inside her womb. Therefore, the maternal mental and physical health is of immense importance as it not only impacts the well-being of a mother but can have long-term effects on the health and well-being of a child as well. Nevertheless, understanding women’s needs and providing better female health care opportunities is the first step towards recognising and addressing the mental and physical challenges women face.

Women and girls have specific health needs that require special attention and health systems. Naturally, men and women are both, biologically and genetically, different from each other and as a result, they have dissimilar health concerns and problems, which have different impacts on their individual lifestyles and well-being. Primarily, female health care focuses on concerns faced by women and girls, such as birth control, gynaecology, childbirth, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, etc. Although, there are social factors, for instance, discrimination and inequality, which affect the health of women in many societies but overall healthcare depends significantly on mental and physical condition of a women for a healthier well-being.  
Mental health refers to the state of psychological well-being concerning cognitive, behavioural, as well as emotional normalcy. It focuses on how an individual feels, behaves and think on daily basis. According to World Health Organization (WHO), mental health is “… a state of well-being in which the individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.” Thus, mental health has direct impact on a person’s everyday life, physical health, and how one makes choices and relates to others. It is the extent of how an individual can deal with everyday problems while staying happy and content. Essentially, maintaining mental health is of great importance as it helps to keep a balance between routine activities and personal well-being, ensuring psychological peace and resilience.  
Unfortunately, the field of mental health has not been given enough attention in Pakistan. Mental disorders account for more than 4% of the total disease burden according to WHO, where the rate of mental health problems is noted higher among Pakistani women. According to a study, The Burden of Mental Disorders in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (1990-2013), Pakistani women lost twice as many disability-adjusted life years to depression, as well as anxiety, as compared to men in 2013. 
In past, mental health services were neglected and poorly developed mainly due to general ignorance of issues related to mental health and also because of poor resources. Predominantly, the ratio of psychiatrists to patients is low in the country, however, as of now, subjects such as psychiatry and behavioural sciences are being taught separately in many medical schools. Moreover, proper training facilities and practicing institutes are now available to help people in need. Also, campaigns, workshops and lectures related to mental health are gaining popularity, thus creating awareness among the general public. 
Being physically healthy and strong is equally important. Physical health denotes an individual’s ability to perform physical activities of everyday routine with ease and without experiencing any kind of bodily pain. According to WHO, health is defined as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Consequently, physical well-being also includes a person’s capacity to effectively perform social roles and activities without any hindrance. Different components can have an effect over an individual’s state of physical health, but most importantly physical activity and exercise has great influence on well-being. Overall, having an active routine involving physical movement helps in having a healthy body, which assists in dealing with everyday challenges, as well as equip the body to fight illnesses and function properly on its own.  
The increase in modernization and lifestyle changes has brought with itself a decrease in overall physical activity. Subsequently, this has increased the risk factors for obesity and other chronic diseases. Like any other country, in Pakistan, lack of physical activity puts many at risk of deadly diseases. According to a study conducted in Pakistan, in 2008 by WHO,  poor state of physical health is noted twice as much in women than men, amounting to 27.3%. In women, the reasons for the high rate of physical inactivity are mainly rooted in the cultural and societal norms, such as ‘women should stay indoors’. Moreover, lack of awareness, facilities and safety measures also discourage physical inactivity in women. However, to help raise the condition of physical health in women, there’s a need to incorporate activities such as walking or introducing facilities like separate timings for women at fitness centres and public parks. Likewise creating awareness and providing useful information to women through television, newsletters, and expert advice, women in Pakistan can become physically more active than before, thus, reducing and fighting preventable health issues.    
In order to achieve well-being, it is necessary to take care of both, mental and physical health. This will also have a positive effect over the emotional and social well-being of a person. Years of research have shown that both have a strong link, and therefore, have an effect on each other when not taken care of. For that reason, women need to ensure that they have a holistic approach towards taking care of their health. Staying physically active and conscious about fitness level is vital for good mental and physical health. They should maintain a healthy lifestyle by keeping up with regular exercise and weight check. This will not only keep them active and fit for everyday activities but will also strengthen and improve their brain function. Additionally, balanced diet is equally important, as eating habits can help prevent or manage many health problems that affect women. Healthy eating requires adding healthy food from all food groups such as fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and proteins and avoiding added sugar items, salts, saturated and trans-fats. Furthermore, deficiency of iron and vitamins is common among females. Therefore, having regular check-ups and eating sufficient amount of required foods can help fuel women’s health and productivity.
With increase in scientific advancement, average lifespan of women has seen a rise in the past years. It is necessary for women in Pakistan to responsibly take care of themselves and their bodies. Female health care has always been central for a progressive society, as the health of an entire family is connected to the health of the mother. The illness or death of a women has devastating effects, not just on children but on the whole community. As they play an important role in nurturing the well-being of the overall society. Like women in any other country, Pakistani women too often neglect their health by prioritising the well-being of others. Therefore, it is of great concern that they take time out to maintain good health by keeping strong mental health along with improving physical health to stay active. Conclusively, healthy and active mothers can in turn ensure an emotionally and physically sound society. HH  

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