Women Transforming Health

Global Health News

March 2018

Women Transforming Health

Banner photo of a smiling woman. Photo credit: Liz Eddy/MCSP

Photo credit:Liz Eddy/MCSP

Around the world, women participate in designing, researching and developing tools and approaches to address evolving health challenges. In honor of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting stories that showcase what happens when women are empowered to play an active role in the health sector, transforming the lives of people in their communities and beyond.


How Building a Stronger HIV/AIDS Health Workforce is Impacting Malawian Women

Photo of a female doctor in Malawi writing a prescription for a patient. Photo credit: USAID

USAID, through PEPFAR, is building a stronger health workforce across Malawi, which shows promise in reducing HIV acquisition, particularly among women. Photo credit: USAID


A strong health workforce is essential to reaching sustained control of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. However, many countries — some with the highest HIV burden — experience severe health workforce shortages. In Malawi, where nearly 900,000 Malawians are HIV-positive, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are only three doctors, nurses and/or midwives per 10,000 people compared to the recommended number of 41.

Moreover, the Government of Malawi is currently experiencing a multiyear government freeze on recruitment. The Human Resources for Health in 2030 (HRH 2030) program, funded by USAID through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), is helping overcome these challenges by recruiting nearly 300 health workers for 64 health facilities in two high-burden HIV districts, with commitment by the Government of Malawi to absorb these workers by 2020.

The recruitment of the additional health workers not only leads to improved HIV/AIDS service delivery, but also provides job opportunities for Malawians who have been unemployed due to the hiring freeze, many of whom are female. In Malawi, where HIV prevalence is higher among women than men, increasing both employment opportunities for women and supporting gender equity is critical to Malawi reaching its HIV goals. HRH2030 shows promise in not only expanding Malawi’s health workforce, but also having a positive impact on women’s economic participation, ultimately reducing HIV risk acquisition among women. Read the full story.


Community Health Worker Fatima Kahdem Brings Tuberculosis Services to People’s Doorsteps

Photo of Fatima Kahdem sitting, reading health books. Photo credit: Nazir Ahmad Rahmani/Challenge TB

Photo credit: Nazir Ahmad Rahmani/Challenge TB

Afghanistan faces many challenges, including providing general health services, especially for tuberculosis (TB). In 2009, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and the National Tuberculosis Program initiated a community-based approach to bring TB services to people’s doorsteps. The community-based directly observed therapy short-course (CB-DOTS) intervention is supported by USAID in six different provinces to increase universal access to TB services. Projects include early case detection, prevention, increased community awareness and treatment of TB patients. Through the program, almost 16,000 community health workers were trained to identify TB cases and when to refer people to diagnostic centers as well as DOT provision to TB patients in their communities.

Fatima Khadem is a community health worker living in Jerbrail Village in Herat city. She is committed to helping people in her city live a healthy life. In 2009, Fatima was trained in CB-DOTS and is responsible for referring presumptive TB patients for diagnosis and educating people about TB symptoms and treatment. She has referred 2,100 presumptive TB patients to hospitals for testing, which ultimately led to 280 people being diagnosed with TB. In addition, Fatima has supported close to 600 TB patients in her community undergoing DOTS. “I feel satisfied when I see that a TB patient has found her/his normal and healthy life,” Fatima says. She wishes for a healthy life for her family, village and all people around the world. Women like Fatima are transforming health in their communities.


Female Innovators Supported by Global Health Grand Challenges

"Global Health Grand Challenges" - Photo of an African woman in traditional dress, holding an infant.

Photo credit: USAID


Through Global Health Grand Challenges, USAID supports women innovators who are tackling some of the most pressing health challenges the world is facing.

For example, through Saving Lives at Birth, the Agency and its partners are supporting women-owned and operated small businesses like Open Development. Through a mobile application, Sarah Scheening and Ilyse Stempler are helping the Liberian Government engage with private health care providers to improve the quality of maternal care and empower women to have greater choice in where they seek health services.

Katherine Jin, along with her fellow innovators Jason Kang and Kevin Tyan, won the Agency’s Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge, which encouraged scholars to design successful solutions for the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Their product is a colorized, powdered additive that is mixed into bleach to improve visualization and coverage during personal and medical equipment decontamination. The color is designed to fade after decontamination is complete, improving feelings of safety and confidence among health care workers.

Finally, through the Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge, the Agency is supporting women innovators like Molly Duman Scheel, a professor at Indiana University, who was selected from more than 850 applicants as one of 26 winners of the Challenge to identify, develop and test an environmentally safe larvicide that kills mosquitoes before they can transmit diseases to humans. Scheel and her team have developed a larvicide that kills nearly 100 percent of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a laboratory environment. The larvicide Scheel’s team developed targets early mosquito nervous system development, preventing the insects from taking flight and transmitting disease.


For These Women, Survival Is Just the Start

Photo of Juliana sitting on a bed in a Bangladeshi hospital. Photo credit: Amy Fowler/USAID

Juliana received surgery for her fistula in Kumundini Hospital in Bangladesh.
Photo credit: Amy Fowler/USAID

After nearly 15 years of fistula work, we are excited to acknowledge a number of historic results and milestone accomplishments. Based on the results of a USAID study, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a new recommendation on the shortened recovery time for fistula repair surgery. A few weeks before WHO’s recommendation, the Agency celebrated the milestone of having repaired 50,000 fistulas.

Reaching 50,000 fistula repairs is an extraordinary accomplishment in our history and would not have been achieved without the integrated global health network behind the numbers. Behind these thousands of repairs are 14 years of USAID leadership, more than 100 improved facilities, 16 country programs, more than 420,000 family planning counseling sessions provided at supported sites in just the last fiscal year, and thousands of USAID-trained medical personnel and volunteers.

Survival is just the start. We have to support and empower women to achieve not only good physical and mental health, but also to take direction of their own lives.

Read the perspective of Mary Ellen Stanton, a senior maternal health advisor at the Agency and passionate midwife, who has practiced and taught in a variety of settings, including New York City, a Biafran refugee camp, rural Kentucky, Swaziland and India.






Banner graphic for the webinar series.

USAID's Global Health Research and Development Webinar Series

This six-part webinar series, which launched in early March, presents USAID’s approaches to global health research and development. Each webinar covers a global health topic and draws examples from investments made in 2016 and beyond. Register here.

Photo of two young women using a cell phone. Photo credit: PANOS

Photo credit: PANOS

The Women Connect Challenge

The Women Connect Challenge is a global call for solutions to improve women's participation in everyday life by meaningfully changing the ways women and girls access and use technology to improve their health, education and livelihoods for themselves and their families.



April 1–7, 2018
World Health Worker Week

From community health workers in remote villages to doctors and health managers in urban hospitals, a country’s health workforce is the primary link to the health system for individuals, families and communities. Follow USAID on Instagram and USAID Global Health on Facebook and Twitter April 1–7 as we recognize their critical roles.


April 24–30, 2018
World Immunization Week

World Immunization Week aims to highlight the collective action needed to ensure that every person is protected from vaccine preventable diseases. This year’s theme: “Protected Together, #VaccinesWork,” encourages people at every level to go further in their efforts to increase immunization coverage for the greater good.


April 25, 2018
World Malaria Day

On April 25, we commemorate progress toward a world without malaria and mobilize action to combat the disease. This year’s theme, “Ready to Beat Malaria,” underscores that we can be the generation to end one of the oldest and deadliest diseases in human history. Join us and get #ReadyToBeatMalaria this World Malaria Day.



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March 6, 2018

Duke Global Health Innovation Center Wins $13M in Grants to Help Save Lives at Birth
February 19, 2018

Global Health Finance: Adapting to a New Reality
February 19, 2018

The Global Virome Project
February 23, 2018

USAID Helps Stop Plague in Madagascar, but Challenges Remain
February 23, 2018

Last updated: June 02, 2019

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