Women’s Health In Fiji: What Individual Level Data Reveals

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This photo shows a patient in a hospital in Nepal. He is sitting, with his leg crossed and an orange bandage around his right ankle. The photo does not show his face, but focusses on his legs. This image is used to illustrate this news item on Women Deliver and the IDM's health dimension
A patient receives medical treatment. Women Deliver 2019 is a key opportunity to discuss women's access to healthcare, and the data available to track access. Photo: Alice Floyd/IWDA

Current measures of poverty don’t paint a complete picture. They can’t show how age, gender, location or disability impact an individual’s experience of poverty.

Existing measures also focus at the household level, hiding within household differences. This is important for work towards gender equality because it often renders women and their experiences invisible in the data, including hiding much of the informal, unpaid work that women do around the home.

Women Deliver 2019 is a key moment for the global community to address these challenges.

One third of all inequality exists within the home and collecting data from individuals is the only way to capture, analyse and understand this inequality.

Individual level data can be aggregated to give a high-level understanding of needs across towns and regions, and it can be disaggregated by sex, age, disability and a range of other characteristics to give a more nuanced and detailed understanding of poverty.

The IDM collected data from almost 3000 individuals in Fiji in 2015. This data reveals how age, sex and location can intersect to deepen an individual’s experience of poverty.

While the IDM asks questions about 15 different dimensions of life (read more about the measure here) – acknowledging the multidimensional nature of poverty – today we focus solely on health to demonstrate the value of data collected at the individual level.

The health dimension

The IDM health dimension focuses on two main themes:

  1. Healthcare (quality and accessibility)
  2. Self-reported health status

Note: Family planning is treated as a standalone dimension.

In 2015, 2966 individuals (men: 1481, women: 1485) were surveyed from 1125 households across Fiji.

The top-line result of the study was that women overall were more deprived in the health dimension than men. This result provides initial information to policy makers, but to get a fuller picture of this deprivation, indicator-level responses illustrate where these differences occur, and how men and women access the health system in Fiji differently:

This illustration shows a figure of a man and a woman, the woman has a hospital to her right, with 40% written over the top, the man has a hospital to his left, with 30% written over the top.
40% of women and 30% of men did not receive healthcare the last time they had an injury or illness that required it.
92% of men who sought medical treatment saw a doctor, compared to 85% of women.
This illustration shows a figure of a man and a woman, the woman has a nurse to her right, with 12% written over the top, the man has a nurse to his left, with 4% written over the top.
Women who sought medical treatment were three times more likely to see a nurse than men.
This illustration shows a figure of a man and a woman, the woman has a hammer to her right, with 50% written over the top, the man has a hammer to his left, with 60% written over the top.
50% of women and 60% of men reported that their last injury/illness made it difficult/impossible to perform their usual work (paid or unpaid).

These results show how men and women access the health system in Fiji differently (doctors and nurses), and the impact of recent illness on paid or unpaid work. They provide valuable information to policy makers looking to address inequality in the area of health in Fiji.

At this point, both men and women are understood as homogenous groups, but using individual level measurement we are able to analyse the data by sex and age to reveal new insights. .

Measuring at the individual level can reveal the impact of environment (rural/urban/informal), sex (sex, not gender was measured in this study), age and disability. The IDM Fiji study found an interaction between sex and age in the healthcare dimension.

Sex and age

No main effect of age was identified overall, however there was a significant interaction between sex and age: younger women were more deprived in the health dimension than both younger men and older women.

Take the question of receiving healthcare upon last injury or illness, for example: Overall, 70% of men and 60% of women who experienced an illness or injury received some form of health care the last time they experienced an injury or illness that required it.

There were patterns of sex and age in this indicator, with young women less likely to have accessed health care than both younger men and older women. In contrast, men’s reported rate of use of health care did not vary over the life course.

Of those who sought medical care, most went to a medical doctor (88%), with 92% of men who sought treatment seeing a doctor compared to 85% of women. Women were three times more likely to see a nurse (12% of women who sought treatment) than men (4%).

This difference was particularly pronounced between younger men and women.

These differences highlight health as an area that merits further exploration. They could be linked to a range of factors including local health beliefs, sociocultural background, gender differences in income and mobility, gendered cultural norms supporting women to prioritise the health care needs of family over self and patriarchal gender relations in Fiji (Chattier, 2008).

The differences may also reflect the different health care needs of women and men at different stages of their lives underlining the value of individual-level measurement that enables disaggregation by sex and age.

The IDM study in Fiji reveals the potential and value of data collected at the individual level. It is a step in the right direction towards making visible, and understanding, the circumstances and complexities of women’s lives.

In 2019 and 2020, the IDM will be releasing results from further country studies. . These results will help to inform the global understanding of poverty and in particular, the way it is experienced differently by men and women. .

Be the first to hear about these results as they’re released, sign up to our emails here.

Download the full Fiji report here (PDF)

Download the Fiji study brief here (PDF)

Chattier, P. D. (2008). Gender, survival and self-respect: dimensions for agency for women within a poor rural Indo-Fijian community.

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