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International Women’s Day: Reaching Out For Women’s Healthcare Worldwide


Rachel Duan, GE Healthcare President and CEO of China


Manar A Al-Moneef, Managing Director of Imagination Breakthrough in the Middle East and Pakistan


Rima Alameddine, GE Healthcare's X-Ray General Manager of Latin America 

International Women’s Day has been celebrated for almost a hundred years and represents the recognition of women’s rights around the world. This year, the UN is focusing on the empowerment of women in rural areas. The difficulty or lack of access to health care, cultural barriers and poor awareness pose a challenge for women worldwide, and particularly, to those in rural areas.

Being diagnosed with a disease in any part of the world is traumatic. Not only is the treatment invasive and aggressive to the body, but patients must withstand psychological factors. There are thousands of women worldwide who have to rely on questionable equipment, poor or nonexistent healthcare and who don’t know the risks of some of the major diseases that may affect them.

Imagine for a second that you could never go to the doctor; if you fell ill, no one could help. Imagine feeling tightness in your chest, or a lump in your breast, or blood in your stool. Access to reliable health care shouldn’t be restricted to any geographical location; it should be a right for women worldwide.

To commemorate International Women’s Day this year, we asked female executives at GE Healthcare from different areas of the world to share with us about the challenges that women have overcome in their countries, the role of women in healthcare and their thoughts on how to succeed in the healthcare industry.

Campaigning against Cancer in China

After her first year as GE Healthcare’s President and CEO in China, Rachel Duan shares her own formula for success: "I think everyone should develop a long term career plan. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, and seek out fresh opportunities to learn new things.”

Ms Duan also speaks about one of the biggest healthcare afflictions for women worldwide. “GE Healthcare China has been making efforts to promote public awareness of breast cancer through the GE Pink Month Campaign since 2006. Up to now, in cooperation with local hospitals nationwide, thousands of women have received onsite free diagnoses through the campaign in dozens of cities and towns in China.” With GE Healthcare China’s focus on both high-end and primary care markets, GE Healthcare’s China CEO hopes to contribute to the healthcare of woman nationwide.

Reaching out to Rural Areas in Saudi Arabia

Dr. Manar A Al-Moneef, a Saudi Arabian national and experienced healthcare professional, is the Managing Director of Imagination Breakthrough in the Middle East and Pakistan. Given Dr. Al-Moneef’s vast experience within the healthcare sector of the region, she drives healthcare business growth with a focus on healthymagination. So how does she do it?

“I equipped myself with a very strong academic background in the medical field, focused business training and worked in different diversified industries spanning medical, research, academia, business development and business promotion,” says Dr. Al-Moneef. She adds: “On a personal note, being a female leader in Saudi Arabia means sacrificing a lot of things.”

The biggest challenges for women in Saudi Arabia are the absence of healthcare support and insufficient access to treatment in rural areas. “Healthcare access has changed with more primary care present in rural areas. Today in my country, more than 25% of rural areas have basic healthcare service and infrastructure to support healthcare delivery. However, access to advanced technologies is holding back these centers to reach excellence. Another challenge from my perspective is the lack of qualified personnel that will be able to operate the new healthcare centers. As a Saudi woman, one of the main challenges is the lack of specialized health care programs that deal with women's health in general. These centers are necessary in their role to lead community awareness and education around disease prevalence, healthier lifestyles, health programs targeting females of different ages. Most importantly, there is a need to focus on educating women overall about their right to have a good health-filled lifestyle” says Dr. Al-Moneef. In addition to this, there are cultural misconceptions surrounding diseases like breast cancer. Women are afraid of social stigma and the possible repercussions that detection might trigger.

With over 10,000 GE healthcare technologies serving a large network of hospitals and healthcare providers, GE has a strong presence in the Middle East. The company has a long history of public and private sector partnerships in the region, where it supports healthcare providers with advanced technologies and solutions to address the full spectrum of medical needs.

Women as Leaders in Latin America

Rima Alameddine, X-Ray General Manager for Latin America, says it loud and clear: “Women are natural leaders. They lead their homes, they set standards for raising their children, and they lead by example. Living in a developing country where society is still learning how to deal with differences, makes it even more challenging for women in leadership positions. Persistence, common sense, transparency, kindness and knowing how to get the most out of a team are key factors in order to be recognized as an outstanding leader.”

When asked about the inequities in health care access in rural areas for woman, Ms Alameddine explains the direct relation between improved access and healthcare outcomes. “Women, no matter where they come from or where they live, have always the same priorities: family, home and lastly themselves. Women are realizing that they can take care of themselves without compromising their commitment and care towards their families, which would inevitably happen if they went to other locations to get examined. The possibility of taking care of themselves where they live shows how important their wellbeing is so they can keep taking care of their families.”

The role of healthymagination

Communication, awareness and education are key factors in crossing cultural barriers and enabling the medical community to communicate more effectively about the benefits of treatment to encourage more women to accept treatment.

GE Healthcare’s healthymagination initiative aims is to increase access to healthcare everywhere, including the development and adaptation of healthcare technologies that can be used in challenging conditions, such as clinics that do not have regular access to electric power, and are more easily transportable to remote location, and increase awareness that overcomes cultural, economic and social barriers.