Why there needs to be greater awareness around women's health issues

The recent edition of wknd. conversations spotlighted the need for greater understanding on health and wellbeing issues



(From left to right) Panelists Dr Lubna Ahmad and nutritionist Zeina Soueidan
(From left to right) Panelists Dr Lubna Ahmad and nutritionist Zeina Soueidan
by

Somya Mehta

Published: Thu 7 Apr 2022, 7:21 PM

The modern woman of the 21st century does many things. She is out in the world, no longer limited to the boundaries of her home, working — and thriving — to make a difference in the world. While many battles have been fought successfully, serving the emancipation of women, there continue to be new-age challenges that need to be resolved by the women of today — to continue fighting the good fight. Amongst these challenges, is the lack of awareness around women’s health issues, which continues to be a tossed-and-glossed-over battle, hindering the overall wellbeing of women.

The recent edition of wknd. conversations that took place on March 29 spotlighted the need for greater awareness around women’s health, while outlining combative measures for ailments such as breast cancer. The event, which took place at Fakeeh University Hospital, kickstarted with a mindfulness and sound healing session conducted by meditation coach Delna Mistry Anand, drawing in the audience’s attention for the interactive sessions.

Delna Mistry Anand
Delna Mistry Anand

The afternoon comprised two segments, focusing on specific ways to raise awareness around women’s health, followed by a Q&A session with the audience members. The first segment highlighted how the pandemic has put renewed focus on health and wellness and why regular checks are necessary, especially for women.

According to Zeina Soueidan, who’s a certified health coach and nutritionist, “There was a fear in the beginning, when Covid happened, where people weren’t really aware of how they would protect themselves from the disease.” This led to a greater and more urgent need for awareness around general wellbeing, believes the Dubai-based nutritionist, with an Instagram presence as @guiltlessnutrition. “Through the course of the pandemic, it has become very clear that prevention is at the base of all things health-related. Things like mental health, having enough sleep, exercising, came at the forefront of health and wellbeing, in general,” said Soueidan, adding that people suddenly became a lot more aware of their diets and nutritional intake, leading to more informed choices.

Offering a medical expert’s perspective, Dr Lubna Ahmad, who’s a specialist obstetrician and gynaecologist, also mentioned that there are several misconceptions around women’s health issues that need to be addressed through awareness-led initiatives. “We are always encouraging regular health check-ups, especially where women’s health is concerned,” said Dr Ahmad. “We advise on regular pap smears and HPV screenings to prevent cervical cancers. It’s suggested that girls from the age of 13 years should take the HPV vaccine,” she added, spotlighting a common misconception witnessed amongst her patients. “Some people think that if they already have HPV, they cannot take the vaccine, which is not true. The virus has 50 strains, so if you’re infected with one of them, the vaccination will still be effective for the other 49 strains,” added Dr Ahmad.

The session was followed by an interactive presentation by food and lifestyle blogger Ritu Chaturvedi, who took the audience on an immersive journey of why self-care is not selfish. According to the Dubai-based blogger, self-care is of utmost importance to women and often starts with respect. “It’s only if I respect my body and mind will I look after it,” said Chaturvedi. “Self-care is also a huge mood booster, which then triggers a number of positive physiological responses in our body,” she added.

Ritu Chaturvedi
Ritu Chaturvedi

The second session of the afternoon was a discussion around how to prevent breast cancer and why prevention is key when it comes to such health concerns. Kylie Penfold, who was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in July 2020, believes it is “important to spread awareness about breast cancer throughout the year and not just in the month of October”.

(From left to right) Panelists Dr Serife Simsek and breast cancer warrior Kylie Penfold
(From left to right) Panelists Dr Serife Simsek and breast cancer warrior Kylie Penfold

Sharing her journey with breast cancer, Penfold said, “My journey began in July 2020, when I was just having a routine mammogram. I’ve been healthy all my life. I ate very sensibly, I love yoga and exercise. So, it was very unexpected.” Penfold, who’s now cancer-free, wishes to work with as many hospitals and experts in the region to raise awareness around breast cancer. “The key message really is that it’s so important to get checked. Early detection can make a world of a difference. Everyone’s journey is different but I must say it’s a tough journey,” said Penfold, adding that she’s proud to say she’s a breast cancer survivor.

According to Dr Serife Simsek, specialist in breast and general surgery, screening is one of the best preventive methods. “If the patient is genetically prone to the disease, then we can even give them preventive medication,” said Dr Simsek. However, she also believes that apart from genetically predisposed circumstances, one also has to be careful of other health and lifestyle factors that could lead to such diseases. “Exercising at least for 150 minutes per week is of paramount importance. But what’s even more important is raising public awareness,” said Dr Simsek.­

somya@khaleejtimes.com

wknd. conversations is a monthly interactive platform where influential leaders from different industries come together for an interactive session on a variety of subjects.


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