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At every phase of life, women and girls have specific needs and opportunities to optimize their health and well-being. Health is also linked across life phases. A life course approach helps optimise people’s health and well-being at all ages. It is built on evidence-based strategies and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

Promoting health through the life course is a priority focus in WHO’s work, including in the 13th General Programme of Work . Universal Health Coverage underpins WHO’s efforts to support countries strengthen delivery of, and access to, services to prevent and treat the most common health conditions. The Organization also works to address risk factors, including those related to gender inequality and other social determinants such as socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, etc.

  • Approximately 303 000 women died from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2015. Worldwide, one woman out of five still has no access during childbirth to a skilled health professional, who could prevent or manage most complications.
  • Over 10% of women globally, and about 20% of women in developing countries, experience peripartum and postpartum depression. This severely affects women’s health and well-being and their children’s early development.
  • An estimated 2.6 million stillbirths occurred globally in 2015, 98% of them in low- and middle-income countries. Globally, one in ten live births is preterm.
  • In some settings, gender-based discrimination can lead to sex-selective abortion and female infanticide.
  • The risk of dying is highest in the first month of life with 2.5 million neonatal deaths in 2017. Prematurity, complications during labour and birth, and infections like sepsis, pneumonia, tetanus and diarrhoea are leading causes, all of which can be prevented.

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