Women’s Healthcare in France

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Women's healthcare in France

While the French healthcare system is obviously successful overall, how does it function when it comes to women’s health?

The French healthcare system is one of the best in the world. The efficacy of France’s healthcare system can be seen in the country’s steadily climbing life expectancy rate and its low infant mortality rate. While the French healthcare system is obviously successful overall, how does it function when it comes to women’s health? Women have specific healthcare that they require, and any great healthcare system will have the ability to provide women with the care that they need, so does the French healthcare system accomplish this?

Reproductive And Sexual Health

Reproductive and sexual health are both incredibly important to women’s health, and unfortunately, STD rates are on the rise in France despite widely implemented sexual education programs. Women involved in long-term relationships tend to feel that their risk of exposure to STDs is minimized, and therefore eschew condoms and other prophylactics during sexual activity. However, the French government has taken steps to try and increase the use of contraceptives and prophylactics by offering to fully reimburse people for the cost of protection.

One issue that continues to plague the French populace revolves around the fact that STD testing isn’t free across the board. In the United States, the costs associated with STD testing can be prohibitive to many women, preventing them from receiving vital sexual healthcare. Unfortunately, though women in France have a substantially easier time paying for testing, it is still too expensive for some. While the French government covers nearly 80% of healthcare costs thanks to their system of universal healthcare, the remaining cost and the stigma associated with STD testing still stop many French women from getting tested.

When it comes to childbirth, midwives are a huge part of the French healthcare system, with up to 70% of French women using midwives during childbirth. The use of midwives results in a reduced number of C-sections performed when compared to the United States. Additionally, French midwives help women with preventive screenings such as Pap smears, and other general gynaecological consultations.

Chronic Conditions

According to the World Health Organization, chronic diseases accounted for 86% of all deaths in France in 2002. While the French government has taken steps to curb the prevalence of preventable chronic diseases, it still remains a problem for women living in France. Women are more prone to developing heart disease as there are a host of gender-specific factors that affect them. However, it is estimated that 80% of premature heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented through regular physical activity and a healthy diet in order to avoid obesity.

The French government has already experimented with a so-called “Cola Tax” to discourage the consumption of food and drinks associated with obesity. Now, the government of France is looking to explore ways to further increase the public’s knowledge regarding the caloric, fat, sugar, and salt content of the food they purchase through the use of a colour-coding system that has been met with a decent amount of resistance from food businesses.

Excess weight not only increases the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and stroke for women in France but can also lead to the development of other chronic illnesses like Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). With mild cases of GERD, lifestyle changes like healthier diets an regular physical activity can help women to manage their symptoms, though more severe cases can require surgery.

Women also suffer from specific chronic illnesses like endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, and breast cancer. While France’s public health policies have inspired positive results in regards to cancer survival rates overall, breast cancer rates are actually on the rise in France. In an effort to combat the rising rates of breast cancer among women in France, the government has taken the unprecedented step of banning certain types of breast implants linked to the development of breast cancer.

Many of these chronic conditions and illnesses can require regular visits with specialists, which is thankfully quite easy under the French healthcare system. Though specialists do charge more than regular doctors in France, patients will either be reimbursed at the official rate set by the health service or more if the health service OK’s it. As long as a patient gets a referral to see a specialist from their French doctor, they will be reimbursed at the full rate.

How Women’s Healthcare Measures Up Internationally

Women face a unique challenge when it comes to receiving adequate healthcare due to the sheer number of health issues specific to women’s health. In addition to the increased risk of heart disease, women deal with breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers; pregnancy issues; and overall gynaecological health. Women are also disproportionately affected by autoimmune diseases that require consistent visits to healthcare providers to manage symptoms.

Fortunately for women living in France, the healthcare system outperforms most other countries in terms of quality and efficiency. Out of 195 countries, France ranks 15th when it comes to the quality and accessibility of their healthcare. Realistically, there are few places on the planet where it is better to be a woman in regards to healthcare than in France.

Even better, the French government isn’t content simply being one of the best countries for healthcare and wants to continually improve the quality of their healthcare and accessibility for rural or economically disadvantaged groups. The French government seeks to improve its healthcare system through the continued development of medical advancements and better recruitment of doctors and other medical professionals. Additionally, it seeks to utilize current technologies to provide citizens in rural areas greater access to care.

Women’s healthcare in France is something that the country can be extremely proud of. The French government is continually seeking out ways to improve its healthcare system, and in doing so have created a system in which it is easy for women to get the quality healthcare that they need. Whether it be through a midwife, a specialist, or their family doctor, women in France have the luxury of access to one of the greatest healthcare systems in the world.


Guest Post by Dan Matthews

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