Resolution on the report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the state of women's health in the European Community (COM(97)0224 C4-0333/97)

Official Journal C 175 , 21/06/1999 P. 0068


Resolution on the report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the state of women's health in the European Community (COM(97)0224 - C4-0333/97)

The European Parliament,

- having regard to the report from the Commission (COM(97)0224 - C4-0333/97),

- having regard to Articles 2, 3(k), 3(o), 3(s), 118, 118a1, 129, 129a1(b), 130f and 130r of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

- having regard to Article 129 of the EC Treaty, as amended by the Treaty of Amsterdam (Article 152 of the consolidated version),

- having regard to the Commission report on 'Gender, Power and Change in Health Institutions of the European Union¨ ((DG V, Unit 5, published by EUROSTAT, Luxembourg 1997, ISBN 92-828-1362-2.)),

- having regard to the strategic health objectives approved at the 1995 UN Beijing Conference on Women and those approved at the UN Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994,

- having regard to the Commission's Second Report on the integration of health protection in Community policies (COM(96)0407),

- having regard to the Commission's communication on the development of public health policy in the European Community (COM(98)0230),

- having regard to the motion for a resolution by Mr White on introducing legislation to protect women against infection from tampon-related toxic shock syndrome (B4-0548/95),

- having regard to the motion for a resolution by Mr Andrews and Mrs Daskalaki on women's health (B4-0819/97),

- having regard to the report of the Committee on Women's Rights and the opinions of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection and the Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy (A4-0260/98),

- having regard to the second report of the Committee on Women's Rights (A4-0029/99),

A. whereas the Commission's communication and whereas the conclusions of the International Congress on 'Women, Work and Health¨ (Barcelona, April 1997), both highlight the renewed interest in and importance of a gender-specific health policy,

B. whereas a programme on Community action on health monitoring within the framework for action in the field of public health (1997-2001) was approved on 27 May 1997 with the objective of enabling measurements of health status and with a view to supporting and coordinating national health policies of the Member States,

C. whereas the Commission's previous annual reports for the years 1994 and 1995 were more general and whereas a specific request was put forward to pay particular attention to certain areas of Community activities and their effects on public health, with specific attention to economic and social policies, including employment, agricultural and food policies, consumer policy, RTD, environment and transport,

D. whereas the Commission's report is the first one to focus on women as a group with specific health characteristics and to recognise that women's health status is also determined to a large extent by socio-economic factors,

E. whereas the collected data and statistics in the report on women's health have regrettably not been compared with those of men, thus making it difficult to judge what special measures could be taken for women in specific areas,

F. whereas most Member States have been forced in recent years to make relative savings in their public expenditure on health and whereas it is accordingly important to pursue a health policy concentrating on prevention, early diagnosis and improving public health rather than on treatment,

G. whereas individual costs for health care have risen substantially and whereas poorer income groups are relatively less healthy than higher income groups and have a higher mortality rate, while on the other hand in some Member States charges for health insurance systems no longer depend on the collective costs of health care but on the risks based on individual parameters,

H. whereas mental ill-health causes widespread human suffering and major social losses, and whereas there are clear differences in the mental ill-health patterns between the sexes, depression affecting disproportionately women,

I. whereas in the case of rare diseases and/or 'hidden¨ causes of diseases, including environmental contamination, due attention must be paid to gender-specific aspects,

J. whereas the disease and death rates among women may decrease considerably as soon as women are provided with adequate information on prevention and whereas women may also channel the information on to men,

K. whereas women in Europe on average live 5 years longer than men, and whereas middle-aged and elderly women are often beset with health problems such as cardiac and vascular disorders, cancer, osteoporosis and depression, which impair their quality of life; whereas the Fifth Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development foresees funded research to meet the challenge of ageing population,


1. Supports the Commission's initiative aimed at highlighting the fact that many health problems affect women only or that they affect women differently; calls accordingly for prevention measures and health promotion directed specifically at women; takes the view that 'mainstreaming¨ of both health and gender aspects into all Community policy areas is an important double challenge;

2. Urges the Commission to assess and take into account the gender impact in all health budgets, programmes and projects and calls urgently for health-related statistics broken down by gender; takes the view that this is all the more important with the enlargement of the Community as the accession countries with even greater public health problems participate in the Community health programmes;

3. Calls on the Commission to refer specifically to the topic of women's health in its new action programme on health; requires the Community Action Programme on Health Monitoring to address in particular the health indicators applicable to women;

4. Points out that the health status of women is affected to a higher degree than men inter alia by a number of socio- economic disparities such as lower living standards, higher unemployment rates, higher levels of social exclusion, the higher percentage of single mothers and single-person households, less social security coverage, lower pay overall, lower pensions and the burden of an uneven distribution of domestic work; urges the Commission, therefore, to put more pressure on the Member States to implement the existing directives, programmes and projects dealing with the elimination of inequality in these areas ;

5. Notes that in absolute numbers women working in health care outnumber men but are strongly underrepresented in health care decision-making; is aware of studies which show that an increase in the number of women in high ranking positions has a substantial positive effect on health care, for instance with the shifting of measures from treatment to prevention;

6. Calls for attention to the 'new' illnesses such as eating disorders (anorexia, bulimia), given that they are on the rise among young women; urges the Member States to establish adequate and sufficient specialist care for these diseases and to provide for treatment prior to the stage at which these disorders become life-threatening;

7. Calls on the Member States to guarantee access to adequate health care for everyone residing in their territory, and especially in the remote and island regions, using funds from the 5th Research and Technological Development Programme for the deployment of new technologies such as telemedicine in such regions, and in particular to ensure that comprehensive protection is provided for health risks;

Reproductive health

8. Emphasises that high quality reproductive health services must be easily accessible and affordable to all women in the various stages of their reproductive lives; calls on the Commission to make a comparison of these services in the Member States and disseminate the best practices;

9. Urges the Commission to ensure that the value of regular examinations for breast and cervical cancer checks satisfy comparable quality criteria and that such examinations are available free of charge and repeated at regular intervals throughout the Community;

10. Considers that the Commission has dealt only summarily with the health consequences of the differences in the various Member States regarding abortion, and with the various measures which could be taken to reduce the number of abortions through programmes of sex education, the promotion of unrestricted availability of contraceptives and counselling, aimed especially at younger people;

11. Calls on the Member States to legalise induced abortion under certain conditions, at least in cases of forced pregnancy and rape, and where the health or life of the woman is endangered, on the principle that it must be the woman herself who takes the final decision, and to ensure that voluntary abortions are carried out in a medically safe way and that psychological and social support is provided;

12. Urges the Commission to ensure that attention is drawn to the advantages and disadvantages of hormonal treatments for menstrual and menopausal problems, and that alternatives to the are researched;

13. Requests the Commission to make an evaluation of existing research and to institute further independent research into the causes of toxic shock syndrome, to make this syndrome a notifiable disease in all Member States, and to ensure that a Code of Practice will apply to all tampon producers, entering into force no later than 1 January 2000, whereby the agreed minimum standards and requirements should apply also to exports and marketing in third countries, or if no agreement is reached by that date to put forward legislative proposals; requests it further to ensure that adequate health education about toxic shock syndrome is given both to girls considering using tampons and the medical staff responsible for diagnosing and treating any incidences of the disease;

14. Calls attention to the fact that women are choosing to give birth at a later age, which can entail certain health risks; urges the Member States to create the conditions to enable working life to be combined with parental responsibilities in view of this fact;

15. Calls on the Commission to ensure the respect throughout the Community of women's sexual rights as agreed in the UN Conference of Beijing in 1995, to everyone residing in the Community's territory;

Diseases which affect women differently

16. Urges the Commission to take into account the gender-specific characteristics of heart and cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, HIV, alcohol consumption and smoking in its health promotion programmes; calls for the introduction of gender-specific notices (warnings) in instruction leaflets, other than those relating to pregnancy and breast-feeding;

17. Calls on the Commission to improve the presently scarce data on mental health and disease in the Union, in order to undertake research on why women suffer more from chronic mental health problems such as depression than men, paying attention to such women-specific areas as pre-menstrual syndrome and post-natal depression and to create an awareness of appropriate treatments for depressive symptoms;

18. Urges the Commission to take measures against the practice in some Member States whereby health insurance firms or funds refuse in part to cover individuals due to gender-related risk-factors and to ensure that they refrain from charging sex-related premiums;

19. Calls on the Commission to consider the health and safety aspects of women-dominated jobs. For example, calling for more research into effects of long-term VDU screen use, the incidence of repetitive strain injury amongst women and the aetiology of back injuries amongst carers;

20. Calls on the Commission to come forward with a proposal to revise the directive on cosmetic products to include declarations for the content of perfume in order to prevent a further increase in perfume allergy;

21. Calls on the Commission to study the particular effects which environmental pollution has on women's health (endometriosis);

Violence against women

22. Calls on the Commission to add into the programmes of health promotion coping with violence against women, which is a serious physical and psychological public health problem having damaging effects also on concerned children's healthy development, and to promote research of and to incorporate health aspects into Community financed campaigns on violence against women;

23. Calls on the Member States to make domestic violence against women, including rape within marriage and sexual mutilation, a criminal offence and to set up services to help women who are victims of this kind of violence;

Health needs of ageing women

24. Urges the Commission to recognise in all health-related actions that women will increasingly make up the majority of senior citizens and that they have greater health needs, which must be reflected in health policies and services and in the organisation of care;

25. Emphasises the importance of prevention of disease and the promotion of healthier lifestyles (exercise, healthy nutrition etc.); calls on the Commission to focus on the prevention and screening of obesity, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease and cancer through national campaigns;

26. Expresses special concern on the lack of adequate response to the needs of persons, increasingly women due to their higher life expectancy rates, suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other similar syndromes which impair their ability to face old age in human dignity; calls for the creation of small-scale units throughout the Community;

27. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the European social partners, the University of Limerick and the World Health Organisation.