The gender gap in health care is high in the UAE, where social conservatism and the stigma attached to certain health issues inhibit women from seeking medical advice, according to Muna Tahlak, Chief of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Department, Al Wasl Hospital.
Dr. Tahlak’s comments came during a November 28 seminar titled “Women and Health in the UAE: Cancer and Reproductive Health,” organized by DSG’s Gender and Public Policy Program as part of its seminar series.
Dr. Tahlak assessed the policies of the UAE government that shape attitudes and behaviors towards cervical cancer prevention. She also deliberated on how current policies in the country, such as disclosure of test results, impact the choices that women make regarding screening and check-ups. She emphasized the importance of effective public policy, which is “supportive of women’s choices and encourages them to seek proper healthcare.”
Speaking on natal and pregnancy concerns, Dr. Tahlak highlighted the need for regular pre-conception check-ups and called upon women to understand the importance of annual gynecological tests.
Dr. Tahlak said: “Every woman must visit her gynecologist as soon as she is considering a child and ideally around three to six months before attempting to conceive. Women planning a baby must be screened for diseases such as diabetes, blood pressure and blood sugar. It is essential for all women to take the pap smear test every year to check for cervical cancer. If screened regularly, pre-cancer cells can be detected and prevent cancer from developing. In addition, women need to be made aware that they can now be vaccinated against cervical cancer.”
Dr. May Al Dabbagh, Director of the Gender and Public Policy Program and moderator of the panel, stressed on the importance of government involvement in closing the gender gap in healthcare. Al Dabbagh said: “It is imperative to tackle the barriers that prevent women from accessing healthcare services. Globalization poses new challenges for effective healthcare provision in the UAE and government support of research-based policy-making is crucial for addressing the gender gap in healthcare.”