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Women’s health has been critically underserved by a failure to look beyond women’s sexual and reproductive systems to adequately consider their broader health needs. In almost every country in the world, noncommunicable diseases are the leading causes of death for women. Among these, cardiovascular disease (including heart disease and stroke) and cancer are the major causes of mortality. Risks for these conditions exist at each stage of women’s lives, but recognition of the unique needs of women for the prevention and management of noncommunicable diseases is relatively recent and still emerging. Once they are diagnosed, treatments for these diseases are often costly and noncurative. Therefore, we call for a strategic, innovative life-course approach to identifying disease triggers and instigating cost-effective measures to minimize exposure in a timely manner. Prohibitive barriers to implementing this holistic approach to women’s health exist in both the social arena and the medical arena. Recognizing these impediments and implementing practical approaches to surmounting them is a rational approach to advancing health equity for women, with ultimate benefits for society as a whole.

Original publication




Journal article


Nature Medicine

Publication Date





51 - 60