Women's social position and their health : a case study of the social determinants of the health of women in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa

Doctoral Thesis


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University of Cape Town

This thesis examines the social determinants of women's health status, health knowledge and knowledge and use of health services in a peri-urban area, using Kbayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa as a case study. It argues for the importance of women's health as a specific focus, looks at some trends in women's health internationally over the past two decades and reviews the main factors affecting women's health. Some key issues in women's health of special relevance to developing countries such as South Africa are discussed. There is a special focus on newly urbanised women in peri-urban areas. Against this background the results of a community-based survey, preceded by indepth interviews, and conducted amongst 659 women in Kbayelitsha in 1989 and 1990 are presented. Data collected were statistically analysed using unIvariate,, bivariate and multivariate analysis. A number of priority social and health problems are identified: poverty; poor environmental conditions; lack of education, partlcularly skills training appropriate for finding work and the subordinate social status of women. Major health concerns included reproductive tract infections, especially sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, contraceptive use and ante-natal care during pregnancy. There were inadequacies in cervical screening conducted by health services and deficiencies in respondents' knowledge of AIDS. cervical smears and where to obtain various health services . Young, newly urbanised women, living in the poorly serviced and unserviced informal housing areas were partlcularly vulnerable in their socio-economic and health status within a peri-urban African community such as Khayelitsha. They also had poorest health knowledge and least knowledge of where to acquire health services. Some recommended interventions focussing on certain of these areas are suggested. It is argued that changes in the provision of women's health services within a primary health care setting can only be part of the process of improving women's health. Improvements in women's economic status and their social status are fundamental to any initiatives to improve their health status.

Includes bibliographical references.