Can the Millennium Development Goals database be used to measure the effects of globalisation on women's health in Sub-Saharan Africa? A critical analysis

Scand J Public Health. 2010 Mar;38(4 Suppl):18-28. doi: 10.1177/1403494809357106.


Background: Africa has had poor returns from integration with world markets in globalisation, has experienced worsening poverty and malnutrition and has high burdens of HIV and communicable disease, with particular burdens on women. It is therefore essential to describe the impact of globalisation on women's health. Indicators such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are presented as having a major role in measuring this impact, but an assessment of the adequacy of aggregate national indicators used in monitoring the MDGs for this purpose is lacking.

Methods: The Millennium Development Goals' panel database 2000 to 2006 was used to investigate the association between globalisation and women's health in Sub-Saharan Africa based on various determinants of heath. Out of the 148 countries classified as developing countries, 48 were in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Results: Results suggest that developing countries are becoming more integrated with world markets through some lowering of trade barriers. At the same time, women's occupational roles are changing, which could affect their health status. However, it is difficult to measure the impact of globalisation on women's health from the MDG database. First, data on trade liberalization is aggregated at the regional level and does not hold any information on individual countries. Second, too few indicators in the MDG database are disaggregated by sex, making it difficult to separate the effects on women from those on men.

Conclusions: The MDG database is not adequate to assess the effects of globalisation on women's health in Sub-Saharan Africa. We recommend that researchers aim to address this research question to find other data sources or turn to case studies. We hope that results from this study will stimulate research on globalisation and health using reliable sources.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Africa South of the Sahara
  • Agriculture
  • Databases, Factual
  • Developing Countries
  • Female
  • Food Supply
  • Global Health*
  • Goals
  • Humans
  • Internationality
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Women's Health*
  • Women, Working