Heroines of Health: How Women Are Transforming Global Healthcare

A documentary by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, MPH tells the story of female leaders in healthcare

3 min read
Hindi Female

Today women make up the vast majority of those working in the field of global healthcare and are estimated to be about 75% of the workforce. They contribute nearly $3 trillion to the global healthcare industry, nearly half of which is unrecognised. Even with major contributions to healthcare, surveys show women continue to be underrepresented at the decision-making and leadership levels. As mothers, women are also most impacted by disease and high mortality rates.

Women being the frontline caregivers play a crucial role and need to be empowered to unleash their capabilities. Inspired by these women who are tackling some of the biggest challenges in healthcare, GE Healthcare launched the Women in Global Health platform at the World Health Assembly in 2016. The platform aims to engage with partners, both public and private, in a shared determination to unleash the economic and intellectual power of women to accelerate the development of sustainable healthcare systems in their nation.

The Global Health Council, Women in Global Health, and GE are bringing together female leadership from across the world to discuss these challenges, celebrate the women of the world who are championing better healthcare for all and inspire the next generation of female leadership.

As part of this, three extraordinary stories of female leaders in healthcare have been chronicled in a documentary by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, MPH. The film titled “Heroines of Health” follows three women doing significant work in the field of healthcare and shows viewers the enormous challenges they have to face. Mercy Owuor is a community leader in Kenya who combats some of the toughest healthcare issues for mothers and children in her country. Mrs Rohani from Indonesia has put together a makeshift ambulance to ensure any pregnant women in her village can receive care at a community health centre. And Sharmila Anand is a doctor from Chennai who came back from the U.S. to Chennai and started Santosh Educational & Health Care Pvt Ltd (SEHPL), a social enterprise focused on developing the next generation of healthcare professionals. It is estimated that India requires nearly 6.5 million health professionals but currently has less than 300,000. With its program to train young student in careers like radiology tech, SEHPL is uniquely filling a demand for the future.

Dr Sharmila had completed her MBA from the USA, and in ordinary circumstances may have continued to pursue her career there, but a combination of personal family circumstances and a gut feeling brought her back to the south of India, where she founded SEHPL. As a medical professional, she is passionate about ensuring woman have a fair shot in her program and tries to bring her global perspective and learnings back to her home country. But life as a female entrepreneur hasn’t been easy. She cites one moment early on, as she was still building SEHPL and trying to convince families of the value in sending their daughters and sisters to receive training, when someone told her that men “wear the pants” in their house.

A documentary by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, MPH tells the story of female leaders in healthcare
A still from Heroines of Health
GE Healthcare

“I said, please wear yours and I’ll wear mine,” she said. Now she counts among the program’s successful graduates an HIV positive woman who had been largely neglected by society, and girls who previously never had left their villages.

“As mothers we go through nine months of pregnancy, but we don’t remember the pain when we see our babies for the first time. That’s similar to how I feel when I see my students come to success,” she says.

The key to solving the disparity that exists for women in global health, she believes, is education and being able to convert that education into meaningful outcomes, such as employment.

“Feed a girl, she will feed a family. Educate a girl, she will educate the society,” says Dr. Sharmila.

The stories of these three women have been untold, until now. To watch them, see Heroines of Health, a documentary by Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lisa Russell, MPH, here.

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